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Full text of "The importance of being earnest : a trivial comedy for serious people"

THE LIBRARY 
OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

GIFT OF 

Mrs. Edwin Grabhom 



atl 



THE 

IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST 



THE 

IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST 

A TRIVIAL COMEDY FOR 

SERIOUS PEOPLE 

BY 

THE AUTHOR OF 

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN 



LONDON *• 9V 
LEONARD SMITHERS AND CO 
5 OLD BOND STREET W 
MDCCCXCIX <M» 



CHISWICK PRESS : — CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON. 



TO 

ROBERT BALDWIN ROSS 

IN APPRECIATION 

IN AFFECTION 



Copyright, December 1898. 

All rights reserved. 

The Acting Rights of the Play are the Property of 

Mr. George Alexander. 

Entered at Stationers' Hall. 

Entered at the Library of Congress, 

Washington, U.S.A. 



THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY 

JOHN WORTHING, J. P. 
ALGERNON MONCRIEFF 
REV. CANON CHASUBLE, D.D. 
MERRIMAN, Butler 
LANE, Manservant 

LADY BRACKNELL 

HON. GWENDOLEN FAIRFAX 

CECILY CARDEW 

MISS PRISM, Governess 



One thousand copies of this edition have been printed, 
of which this is No. 



THE SCENES OF THE PLAY 

Act I Algernon Moncrieff's Flat in Half-Moon 
Street, W. 

Act II The Garden at the Manor House, Woolton. 

Act III Drawing-Roo7n at the Manor House, 
Woolton. 

Time 
The Present. 



^ 



LONDON: ST. JAMES'S THEATRE 

Lessee and Manager : Mr. George Alexander 
February \\th, 1895 

John Worthing, J.P. Mr. George Alexander 

Algernon Moncrieff Mr. Allen Aynesworth 
Rev. Canon Chasuble, 

D.D. ...... Mr. H. H. Vincent 

Merriman {Butler) . . Mr. Frank Dyall 

Lane (^Manservant) . . Mr. F. Kinsey Peile 

Lady Bracknell . . Miss Rose Leclercq 
Hon. Gwendolen 

Fairfax Miss Irene Vanbrugh 

Cecily Cardew . . . Miss Evelyn Millard 

Miss Prism {Governess) Mrs. George Canninge 



THE 

IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST 



FIRST ACT 



Scene — Morning-room in Algernon's Jiat in Half 
Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistic- 
ally furnished. The sound of a piano is lieard in the 
adjoining room. 

[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and 
after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.'] 

ALGERNON 

Did you hear what I was playing, Lane ? 

LANE 

I didn't think it polite to listen, sir. 

ALGERNON 

I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play 
accurately — anyone can play accurately — but I play 
with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is 
concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science 
for Life. 

LANE 
Yes, sir. 



ALGERNON 

And, speaking of the science of Life, have you 
got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Brack- 
nell? 

LANE 
Yes, sir. \Hands them on a salver?^ 

ALGERNON 

\Inspects them, takes two, and sits down on the 
so/a.] Oh ! ... by the way, Lane, I see from your 
book that on Thursday night, when Lord Shoreman 
and Mr. Worthing were dining with me, eight bottles 
of champagne are entered as having been consumed. 

LANE 
Yes, sir ; eight bottles and a pint. 

ALGERNON 

Why is it that at a bachelor's establishment the 
servants invariably drink the champagne ? I ask 
merely for information. 

LANE 

I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, 
sir. I have often observed that in married house- 
holds the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand. 

ALGERNON 

Good Heavens ! Is marriage so demoralizing as 
that? 



LANE 



I believe it is a very pleasant state, sir. I have 
had very little experience of it myself up to the 
present. I have only been married once. That 
was in consequence of a misunderstanding between 
myself and a young person. 



ALGERNON 



{Languidly.'] I don't know that I am much in- 
terested in your family life, Lane. 



LANE 



No, sir ; it is not a very interesting subject. I 
never think of it myself. 

ALGERNON 

Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, 
thank you. 

LANE 

Thank you, sir. [Lane goes out.] 

ALGERNON 

Lane's views on marriage seem somewhat lax. 
Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good 
example, what on earth is the use of them ? They 
seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of 
moral responsibility. 



[Enter Lane.] 



LANE 

Mr. Ernest Worthing. 

{Enter Jack.l {Lane goes out.] 

ALGERNON 

How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings 
you up to town ? 

JACK 

Oh, pleasure, pleasure ! What else should bring 
one anywhere ? Eating as usual, I see, Algy ! 

ALGERNON 

[Sttj^j/.] I believe it is customary in good society 
to take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. 
Where have you been since last Thursday ? 

JACK 

[Sitting down on the sofa."] In the country. 

ALGERNON 

What on earth do you lio there ? 

JACK 

[Pulling off his gloves.] When one is in town one 
amuses oneself. When one is in the' country one 
amuses other people. It is excessively boring. 

4 



ALGERNON 

And who are the people you amuse ? 

JACK 

[Airily.'] Oh, neighbours, neighbours. 

ALGERNON 

Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire ? 

JACK 

Perfectly horrid ! Never speak to one of them. 

ALGERNON 

How immensely you must amuse them ! {^Goes 
over and takes sandwich.'] By the way, Shropshire 
is your county, is it not ? 

JACK 

Eh ? Shropshire ? Yes, of course. Hallo ! Why 

all these cups ? Why cucumber sandwiches ? Why 

such reckless extravagance in one so young ? Who 
is coming to tea ? 

ALGERNON 

Oh ! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen. 

JACK 

How perfectly delightful ! 



ALGERNON 

Yes, that is all very well ; but I am afraid Aunt 
Augusta won't quite approve of your being here. 

JACK 

May I ask why ? 

ALGERNON 

My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwen- 
dolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad 
as the way Gwendolen flirts with you. 

JACK 

I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up 
to town expressly to propose to her. 

ALGERNON 

I thought you had come up for pleasure ? . . . I 
call that business. 

JACK 

How utterly unromantic you are ! 

ALGERNON 

I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. 
It is very romantic to be in love. But there is 
nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, 
one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. 
Then the excitement is all over. The very essence 

6 



of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, 
I'll certainly try to forget the fact. 

JACK 

I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The 
Divorce Court was specially invented for people 
whose memories are so curiously constituted. 

ALGERNON 

Oh ! there is no use speculating on that subject. 

Divorces are made in Heaven \^Jack puts out 

his hand to take a sandwich. Algernon at once 
interferes.'] Please don't touch the cucumber sand- 
wiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Au- 
gusta. [ Takes one and eats it.] 

JACK 

Well, you have been eating them all the time. 

ALGERNON 

That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. 
[ Takes plate from below.] Have some bread and 
butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. 
Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter. 

JACK 

[Advancing to table and helping himself] And 
very good bread and butter it is too. 

ALGERNON 

Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you 
7 



were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were 
married to her already. You are not married to 
her already, and I don't think you ever will be. 

JACK 

Why on earth do you say that ? 

ALGERNON 

Well, in the first place girls never marry the men 
they flirt with. Girls don't think it right. 

JACK 

Oh, that is nonsense ! 

ALGERNON 

It isn't. It is a great truth. It accounts for the 
extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all 
over the place. In the second place, I don't give 
my consent. 

JACK 

Your consent ! 

ALGERNON 

My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin. 
And before I allow you to marry her, you will have 
to clear up the whole question of Cecily. [^Rings bell.'\ 

JACK 

Cecily ! What on earth do you mean ? What 



do you mean, Algy, by Cecily? I don't know 
anyone of the name of Cecily. 

[Enter Lane.] 
ALGERNON 

Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing left 
in the smoking-room the last time he dined here. 

LANE 

Yes, sir. [Lane goes out.] 

JACK 

Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette 
case all this time? I wish to goodness you had let 
me know. I have been writing frantic letters to 
Scotland Yard about it. I was very nearly offering 
a large reward. 

ALGERNON 

Well, I wish you would offer one. I happen to 
be more than usually hard up. 

JACK 

There is no good offering a large reward now that 
the thing is found. 

[Enter Lane with the cigarette case on a salver. 
Algernon takes it at once. Lane goes out.] 

9 C 



ALGERNON 

I think that is rather mean of you, Ernest, I 
must say. \Opens case and examines if.] However, 
it makes no matter, for, now that I look at the 
inscription inside, I find that the thing isn't yours 
after all. 

JACK 

Of course it's mine. [Moving" to /mn.] You 
have seen me with it a hundred times, and you 
have no right whatsoever to read what is written 
inside. It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a 
private cigarette case. 

ALGERNON 

Oh ! it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule 
about what one should read and what one shouldn't. 
More than half of modern culture depends on what 
one shouldn't read. 

JACK 

I am quite aware of the fact, and I don't propose 
to discuss modern culture. It isn't the sort of thing 
one should talk of in private. I simply want my 
cigarette case back. 

ALGERNON 

Yes ; but this isn't your cigarette case. This 
cigarette case is a present from someone of the 
name of Cecily, and you said you didn't know any- 
one of that name. 

lo 



JACK 

Well, if you want to know, Cecily happens to be 
my aunt. 

ALGERNON 

Your aunt ! 

JACK 

Yes. Charming old lady she is, too. Lives at 
Tunbridge Wells. Just give it back to me, Algy. 

ALGERNON 

[^Retreating to back of so/a.] But why does she 
call herself little Cecily if she is your aunt and lives 
at Tunbridge Wells ? [Reading.] " From little 
Cecily with her fondest love." 

JACK 

[Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it.] My dear 
fellow, what on earth is there in that ? Some aunts 
are tall, some aunts are not tall. That is a matter 
that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for 
herself You seem to think that every aunt should 
be exactly like your aunt ! That is absurd ! For 
Heaven's sake give me back my cigarette case. 
[Follows Ernest round the room.] 

ALGERNON 

Yes. But why does your aunt call you her 
uncle ? '• From little Cecily, with her fondest love 

II 



to her dear Uncle Jack." There is no objection, I 
admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an 
aunt, no matter what her size may be, should 
call her own nephew her uncle, I can't quite make 
out. Besides, your name isn't Jack at all ; it is 
Ernest. 

JACK 

It isn't Ernest ; it 's Jack. 

ALGERNON 

You have always told me it was Ernest. I have 
introduced you to everyone as Ernest. You answer 
to the name of Ernest. You look as if your name 
was Ernest. You are the most earnest looking 
person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly absurd 
your saying that your name isn't Ernest. It 's on 
your cards. Here is one of them. \_Taking it from 
case.] " Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The Albany." 
I'll keep this as a proof that your name is Ernest 
if ever you attempt to deny it to me, or to Gwen- 
dolen, or to anyone else. [Puts the card in his 
pocket i\ 

JACK 

Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in 
the country, and the cigarette case was given to 
me in the country. 

ALGERNON 

Yes, but that does not account for the fact that 
12 



your small Aunt Cecily, who lives at Tunbridge 
Wells, calls you her dear uncle. Come, old boy, 
you had much better have the thing out at once. 

JACK 

My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a 
dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist 
when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false 
impression. 

ALGERNON 

Well, that is exactly what dentists always do. 
Now, go on ! Tell me the whole thing. I may 
mention that I have always suspected you of being 
a confirmed and secret Bunburyist ; and I am quite 
sure of it now.  

JACK 

Bunburyist ? What on earth do you mean by a 

Bunburyist ? 

ALGERNON 

I'll reveal to you the meaning of that incompar- 
able expression as soon as you are kind enough to 
inform me why you are Ernest in town and Jack 
in the country. 

JACK 

Well, produce my cigarette case first. 
13 



ALGERNON 

Here it is. {Hands cigarette case.] Now produce 
your explanation, and pray make it improbable. 
[St'ts on sofa.] 

JACK 

My dear fellow, there is nothing improbable 
about my explanation at all. In fact it 's perfectly 
ordinary. Old Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted 
me when I was a little boy, made me in his will 
guardian to his grand-daughter. Miss Cecily Cardew. 
Cecily, who addresses me as her uncle from motives 
of respect that you could not possibly appreciate, 
lives at my place in the country under the charge 
of her admirable governess. Miss Prism. 

ALGERNON 

Where is that place in the country, by the way ? 

JACK 

That is nothing to you, dear boy. You are not 
going to be invited. ... I may tell you candidly 
that the place is not in Shropshire. 

ALGERNON 

I suspected that, my dear fellow ! I have Bun- 
buryed all over Shropshire on two separate occa- 
sions. Now, go on. Why are you Ernest in town 
and Jack in the country? 

H 



JACK 

My dear Algy, I don't know whether you will 
be able to understand my real motives. You are 
hardly serious enough. When one is placed in the 
position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high 
moral tone on all subjects. It 's one's duty to do 
so. And as a high moral tone can hardly be said 
to conduce very much to either one's health or one's 
happiness, in order to get up to town I have always 
pretended to have a younger brother of the name 
of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into 
the most dreadful scrapes. That, my dear Algy, 
is the whole truth pure and simple. 

ALGERNON 

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. 
Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, 
and modern literature a complete impossibility ! 

JACK 

That wouldn't be at all a bad thing. 

ALGERNON 

Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear 
fellow. Don't try it. You should leave that to 
people who haven't been at a University. They do 
it so well in the daily papers. What you really 
are is a Bunburyist. I was quite right in saying 
you were a Bunburyist. You are one of the most 
advanced Bunburyists I know. 

15 



JACK 

What an earth do you mean ? 

ALGERNON 

You have invented a very useful younger brother 
called Ernest, in order that you may be able to 
come up to town as often as you like. I have 
invented an invaluable permanent invalid called 
Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down 
into the country whenever I choose. Bunbury is 
perfectly invaluable. If it wasn't for Bunbury's 
extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn't 
be able to dine with you at Willis's to-night, for I 
have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for 
more than a week. 

JACK 

I haven't asked you to dine with me anywhere 
to-night.^ 

ALGERNON 

I know. You are absurdly careless about send- 
ing out invitations. It is very foolish of you. 
Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving 
invitations. 

JACK 

You had much better dine with your Aunt 
Augusta. 

i6 



ALGERNON 

I haven't the smallest intention of doing any- 
thing of the kind. To begin with, I dined there 
on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to 
dine with one's own relations. In the second place, 
whenever I do dine there I am always treated as a 
member of the family, and sent down with either 
no woman at all, or two. In the third place, I 
know perfectly well whom she will place me next to, 
to-night. She will place me next Mary Farquhar, 
who always flirts with her own husband across the 
dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, 
it is not even decent . . . and that sort of thing is 
enormously on the increase. The amount of women 
in London who flirt with their own husbands is 
perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is sim- 
ply washing one's clean linen in public. Besides, 
now that I know you to be a confirmed Bunburyist 
I naturally want to talk to you about Bunburying. 
I want to tell you the rules. 

JACK 

I'm not a Bunburyist at all. If Gwendolen 
accepts me, I am going to kill my brother, indeed 
I think I'll kill him in any case. Cecily is a little 
too much interested in him. It is rather a bore. 
So I am going to get rid of Ernest. And I strongly 
advise you to do the same with Mr. . . . with your 
invalid friend who has the absurd name. 

ALGERNON 

Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and 
17 D 



if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely 
problematic, you will be very glad to know Bunbury. 
A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has 
a very tedious time of it. 

JACK 

That is nonsense. If I marry a charming girl 
like Gwendolen, and she is the only girl I ever saw 
in my life that I would marry, I certainly won't want 
to know Bunbury. 

ALGERNON 

Then your wife will. You don't seem to realize, 
that in married life three is company and two is 
none. 

JACK 

\_Senfentiously.'\ That, my dear young friend, is 
the theory that the corrupt French Drama has been 
propounding for the last fifty years. 

ALGERNON 

Yes ; and that the happy English home has proved 
in half the time. 

JACK 

For heaven's sake, don't try to be cynical. It's 
perfectly easy to be cynical. 

i8 



ALGERNON 

My dear fellow, it isn't easy to be anything now- 
a-days. There's such a lot of beastly competition 
about. [ The sound of an electric bell is heard.'] Ah ! 
that must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or 
creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner. 
Now, if I get her out of the way for ten minutes, so 
that you can have an opportunity for proposing to 
Gwendolen, may I dine with you to-night at Willis's? 

JACK 

I suppose so, if you want to. 

ALGERNON 

Yes, but you must be serious about it. I hate 
people who are not serious about meals. It is so 
shallow of them. 

{Enter Lane.] 

LANE 

Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax. 
\^A Igernon goes forward to meet them. Enter Lady 
Bracknell and Gwendolen^ 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are 
behaving very well. 

ALGERNON 

I'm feeling very well, Aunt Augusta. 
19 



LADY BRACKNELL 

That's not quite the same thing. In fact the two 
things rarely go together. [Sees Jack and bows to 
him with icy coldness^ 

ALGERNON 

[ To Gwendolen^ Dear me, you are smart ! 

GWENDOLEN 

I am always smart ! Aren't I, Mr. Worthing? 

JACK 

You're quite perfect, Miss Fairfax. 

GWENDOLEN 

Oh ! I hope I am not that. It would leave no 
room for developments, and I intend to develop 
in many directions. [Gwendolen and Jack sit down 
together in the corner^ 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I'm sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I 
was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury. I hadn't 
been there since her poor husband's death. I never 
saw a woman so altered ; she looks quite twenty 
years younger. And now I'll have a cup of tea, 
and one of those nice cucumber sandwiches you 
promised me. 



ALGERNON 

Certainly, Aunt Augusta. [ Goes over to tea-tahle!\ 

LADY BRACKNELL 
Won't you come and sit here, Gwendolen ? 

GWENDOLEN 

Thanks, mamma, I'm quite comfortable where I 
am. 

ALGERNON 

\Picki7igup empty plate in horror.'] Good heavens ! 
Lane ! Why are there no cucumber sandwiches ? 
I ordered them specially. 

LANE 

[Gravely.] There were no cucumbers in the 
market this morning, sir. I went down twice. 

ALGERNON 

No cucumbers ! 

LANE 

No, sir. Not even for ready money. 

ALGERNON 

That will do. Lane, thank you. 

21 



LANE 

Thank you, sir. [Goes out.'] 

ALGERNON 

I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about 
there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

It really makes no matter, Algernon. I had some 
crumpets with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to 
be living entirely for pleasure now. 

ALGERNON 

I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

It certainly has changed its colour. From what 
cause I, of course, cannot say. [A/gernon crosses 
and hands tea.] Thank you. I've quite a treat for 
you to-night, Algernon. I am going to send you 
down with Mary Farquhar. She is such a nice 
woman, and so attentive to her husband. It 's de- 
lightful to watch them. 

ALGERNON 

I am afraid. Aunt Augusta, I shall have to give 
up the pleasure of dining with you to-night after 
all. 

22 



LADY BRACKNELL 



{^Frowning.'] I hope not, Algernon. It would put 
my table completely out. Your uncle would have 
to dine upstairs. Fortunately he is accustomed to 
that. 



ALGERNON 



It is a great bore, and, I need hardly say, a ter- 
rible disappointment to me, but the fact is I have 
just had a telegram to say that my poor friend 
Bunbury is very ill again. \ExcJianges glances with 
Jack?[ They seem to think I should be with him. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

It is very strange. This Mr. Bunbury seems to 
suffer from curiously bad health. 

ALGERNON 

Yes ; poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is 
high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind 
whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly- 
shallying with the question is absurd. Nor do I in any 
way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids. 
I consider it morbid. Illness of any kind is hardly 
a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the 
primary duty of life. I am always telling that to 
your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much 
notice ... as far as any improvement in his ailments 

23 



goes. I should be much obliged if you would ask 
Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to 
have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to 
arrange my music for me. It is my last reception, 
and one wants something that will encourage con- 
versation, particularly at the end of the season when 
everyone has practically said whatever they had to 
say, which, in most cases, was probably not much. 

ALGERNON 

I'll speak to Bunbury, Aunt Augusta, if he is still 
conscious, and I think I can promise you he'll be all 
right by Saturday. Of course the music is a great 
difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people 
don't listen, and if one plays bad music people don't 
talk. But I'll run over the programme I've drawn 
out, if you will kindly come into the next room for 
a moment. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Thank you, Algernon. It is very thoughtful of 
you. \Rising, and following Algernon^ I'm sure the 
programme will be delightful, after a few expurga- 
tions. French songs I cannot possibly allow. People 
always seem to think that they are improper, and 
either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, 
which is worse. But German sounds a thoroughly 
respectable language, and indeed, I believe is so. 
Gwendolen, you will accompany me. 



GWENDOLEN 

Certainly, mamma. 



24 



\^Lady Bracknell and Algernon go into the music- 
rootn, Gwendolen remains behind."] 

JACK 

Charming day it has been, Miss Fairfax. 

GWENDOLEN 

Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. 
Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the 
weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean 
something else. And that makes me so nervous. 

JACK 

I do mean something else. 

GWENDOLEN 

I thought so. In fact, I am never wrong. 

JACK 

And I would like to be allowed to take advantage 
of Lady Bracknell's temporary absence . . . 

GWENDOLEN 

I would certainly advise you to do so. Mamma 
has a way of coming back suddenly into a room that 
I have often had to speak to her about. 

JACK 

[Nervously.'] Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you 
I have admired you more than any girl ... I have 
ever met since ... I met you. 

25 E 



GWENDOLEN 

Yes, I am quite aware of the fact. And I often 
wish that in pubHc, at any rate, you had been more 
demonstrative. For me you have always had an 
irresistible fascination. Even before I met you I 
was far from indifferent to you. {Jack looks at her 
in amazement^ We live, as I hope you know, Mr. 
Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly 
mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, 
and has reached the provincial pulpits I am told: 
and my ideal has always been to love some one of 
the name of Ernest. There is something in that 
name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment 
Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend 
called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you. 

JACK 

You really love me, Gwendolen ? 

GWENDOLEN 
Passionately ! 

JACK 

Darling! You don't know how happy you've 
made me. 

GWENDOLEN 
My own Ernest ! 

JACK 

But you don't really mean to say that you couldn't 
love me if my name wasn't Ernest ? 

26 



GWENDOLEN 

But your name is Ernest. 

JACK 

Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something 
else ? Do you mean to say you couldn't love me 
then? 

GWENDOLEN 

[Glibly.'] Ah ! that is clearly a metaphysical 
speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations 
has very little reference at all to the actual facts of 
real life, as we know them. 

JACK 

Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I 
don't much care about the name of Ernest ... I 
don't think the name suits me at all. 

GWENDOLEN 

It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It 
has a music of its own. It produces vibrations. 

JACK 

Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think 
there are lots of other much nicer names, I think 
Jack, for instance, a charming name. 

27 



GWENDOLEN 

Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name 
Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It 
produces absolutely no vibrations. ... I have known 
several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were 
more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious 
domesticity for John ! And I pity any woman who 
is married to a man called John. She would probably 
never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of 
a single moment's solitude. The only really safe 
name is Ernest. 

JACK 

Gwendolen, I must get christened at once — I 
mean we must get married at once. There is no 
time to be lost. 

GWENDOLEN 

Married, Mr. Worthing ? 

JACK 

{Astounded.'] Well . . . surely. You know that I 
love you, and you led me to believe, Miss Fairfax, 
that you were not absolutely indifferent to me. 

GWENDOLEN 

I adore you. But you haven't proposed to me 
yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage. 
The subject has not even been touched on. 

28 



JACK 

Well . . . may I propose to you now ? 
GWENDOLEN 

I think it would be an admirable opportunity. 
And to spare you any possible disappointment, Mr. 
Worthing, I think it only fair to tell you quite 
frankly beforehand that I am fully determined to 
accept you. 

JACK 

Gwendolen ! 

GWENDOLEN 

Yes, Mr. Worthing, what have you got to say 

to me? 

JACK 

You know what I have got to say to you. 

GWENDOLEN 

Yes, but you don't say it. 

JACK 

Gwendolen, will you marry me? {Goes on his knees.] 

GWENDOLEN 

Of course I will, darling. How long you have 
been about it ! I am afraid you have had very little 
experience in how to propose. 

29 



JACK 

My own one, I have never loved anyone in the 
world but you. 

GWENDOLEN 

Yes, but men often propose for practice. I know 
my brother Gerald does. All my girl-friends tell me 
so. What wonderfully blue eyes you have, Ernest ! 
They are quite, quite, blue. I hope you will always 
look at me just like that, especially when there are 
other people present. 

[Enter Lady Bracknell?^ 
LADY BRACKNELL 

Mr. Worthing ! Rise, sir, from this semi-re- 
cumbent posture. It is most indecorous. 

GWENDOLEN 

Mamma ! \He tries to rise ; she restrains hiin.l 
I must beg you to retire. This is no place for you. 
Besides, Mr. Worthing has not quite finished yet. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Finished what, may I ask ? 

GWENDOLEN 

I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma. [They 
rise together!] 

30 



LADY BRACKNELL • 

Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. 
When you do become engaged to some one, I, or 
your father, should his health permit him, will in- 
form you of the fact. An engagement should come 
on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, 
as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she 
could be allowed to arrange for herself. . . . And 
now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. 
Worthing. While I am making these inquiries, 
you, Gwendolen, will wait for me below in the 
carriage. 

GWENDOLEN 

{Reproachfully ?\^ Mamma ! 

LADY BRACKNELL 

In the carriage, Gwendolen ! {Gwendolen goes to 
the door. She and Jack blow kisses to each other 
behind Lady Bracknell's back. Lady Bracknell looks 
vaguely about as if she could not understand what 
tJie noise was. Finally turns roundi\ Gwendolen, 
the carriage ! 

GWENDOLEN 

Yes, mamma. {Goes out, looking back at Jacki\ 

LADY BRACKNELL 

{Sitting down?^ You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing. 
{Looks in her pocket for note-book and pencil?^ 
31 



JAGK 

Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[^Pencil and note-book in hand.'] I feel bound to 
tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible 
young men, although I have the same list as the 
dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in 
fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your 
name, should your answers be what a really affec- 
tionate mother requires. Do you smoke ? 

JACK 

Well, yes, I must admit I smoke. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I am glad to hear it. A man should always have 
an occupation of some kind. There are far too 
many idle men in London as it is. How old are 
you? 

JACK 

Twenty-nine. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

A very good age to be married at. I have always 
been of opinion that a man who desires to get 
married should know either everything or nothing. 
Which do you know ? 

32 



JACK 

[After some hesitation.'] I know nothing, Lady 
Bracknell. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of 
anything that tampers with natural ignorance. 
Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit ; touch it 
and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern 
education is radically unsound. Fortunately in 
England, at any rate, education produces no effect 
whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious 
danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to 
acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your 
income ? 

JACK 

Between seven and eight thousand a year. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Makes a note in her dook.] In land, or in invest- 
ments ? 

JACK 

In investments, chiefly. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

That is satisfactory. What between the duties 
expected of one during one's lifetime, and the duties 
exacted from one after one's death, land has ceased 

33 F 



to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one 
position, and prevents one from keeping it up. 
That 's all that can be said about land. 

JACK 

I have a country house with some land, of course, 
attached to it, about fifteen hundred acres, I believe ; 
but I don't depend on that for my real income. In 
fact, as far as I can make out, the poachers are the 
only people who make anything out of it. . 

LADY BRACKNELL 

A country house ! How many bedrooms? Well, 
that point can be cleared up afterwards. You have 
a town house, I hope ? A girl with a simple, un- 
spoiled nature, like Gwendolen, could hardly be 
expected to reside in the country. 

JACK 

Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is 
let by the year to Lady Bloxham. Of course, I can 
get it back whenever I like, at six months' notice. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Lady Bloxham ? I don't know her. 

JACK 

Oh, she goes about very little. She is a lady 
considerably advanced in years. 

34 



LADY BRACKNELL 

Ah, now-a-days that is no guarantee of respect- 
ability of character. What number in Belgrave 
Square ? 

JACK 

149. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

{^Shaking her head.l The unfashionable side. I 
thought there was something. However, that could 
easily be altered. 

JACK 

Do you mean the fashion, or the side ? 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Sternly.'] Both, if necessary, I presume. What 
are your politics ? 

JACK 

Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a 
Liberal Unionist. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or 
come in the evening, at any rate. Now to minor 
matters. Are your parents living ? 

35 



JACK 

I have lost both my parents. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Both ? . , . That seems like carelessness. Who 
was your father ? He was evidently a man of some 
wealth. Was he born in what the Radical papers 
call the purple of commerce, or did he rise from 
the ranks of the aristocracy ? 

JACK 

I am afraid I really don't know. The fact is, 
Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost my parents. It 
would be nearer the truth to say that my parents 
seem to have lost me ... I don't actually know who 
I am by birth. I was . . . well, I was found. 

LADY BRACKNELL 
Found ! 

JACK 

The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman 
of a very charitable and kindly disposition, found 
me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he 
happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing 
in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in 
Sussex. It is a seaside resort. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Where did the charitable gentleman who had a 
first-class ticket for this seaside resort find you ? 

36 



JACK 

[Gravefy.] In a hand-bag. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

A hand-bag ? 

JACK 

[ Very seriously.'] Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in 
a hand-bag — a somewhat large, black leather hand- 
bag, with handles to it — an ordinary hand-bag in 
fact. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

In what locality did this Mr. James, or Thomas, 
Cardew come across this ordinary hand-bag ? 

JACK 

In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was 
given to him in mistake for his own. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

The cloak-room at Victoria Station ? 

JACK 

Yes. The Brighton line. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess 
I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just 

37 



told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a 
hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to 
me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies 
of family life that remind one of the worst excesses 
of the French Revolution. And I presume you 
know what that unfortunate movement led to ? As 
for the particular locality in which the hand-bag 
was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might 
serve to conceal a social indiscretion — has probably, 
indeed, been used for that purpose before now — but 
it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for 
a recognized position in good society. 

JACK 

May I ask you then what you would advise me 
to do ? I need hardly say I would do anything in 
the world to ensure Gwendolen's happiness. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try 
and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and 
to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one 
parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over. 

JACK 

Well, I don't see how I could possibly manage to 
do that. I can produce the hand-bag at any moment. 
It is in my dressing-room at home. I really think 
that should satisfy you, Lady Bracknell. 

38 



LADY BRACKNELL 

Me, sir ! What has it to do with me ? You can 
hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would 
dream of allowing our only daughter — a girl brought 
up with the utmost care — to marryinto a cloak-room, 
and form an alliance with a parcel ? Good morning, 
Mr. Worthing ! 

\Lady Bracknell sweeps out in majestic indignation?^ 

JACK 

Good morning ! {Algernon, from tJie other room, 
strikes up the Wedding March. Jack looks perfectly 
furious, and goes to the door.^ For goodness' sake 
don't play that ghastly tune, Algy! How idiotic 



you are 



[The music stops, and Algernon enters cheerily. '\ 

ALGERNON 

Didn't it go off all right, old boy? You don't 
mean to say Gwendolen refused you ? I know it is 
a way she has. She is always refusing people. I 
think it is most ill-natured of her. 

JACK 

Oh, Gwendolen is as right as a trivet. As far as 
she is concerned, we are engaged. Her mother is 
perfectly unbearable. Never met such a Gorgon . . . 
I don't really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am 
quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, 
she is a monster, without being a myth, which is 

39 



rather unfair ... I beg your pardon, Algy, I suppose 
I shouldn't talk about your own aunt in that way 
before you. 

ALGERNON 

My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. 
It is the only thing that makes me put up with them 
at all. Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, 
who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to 
live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die. 

JACK 

Oh, that is nonsense ! 

ALGERNON 

It isn't ! 

JACK 

Well, I won't argue about the matter. You 
always want to argue about things. 

ALGERNON 

That is exactly what things were originally made 
for. 

JACK 

Upon my word, if I thought that, I'd shoot 
myself . . . [A pause.] You don't think there is any 
chance of Gwendolen becoming like her mother in 
about a hundred and fifty years, do you Algy ? 

40 



ALGERNON 

All women become like their mothers. That is 
their tragedy. No man does. That 's his. 

JACK 

Is that clever ? 

ALGERNON 

It is perfectly phrased ! and quite as true as any 
observation in civilized life should be. 

JACK 

I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is 
clever now-a-days. You can't go anywhere without 
meeting clever people. The thing has become an 
absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we 
had a few fools left. 

ALGERNON 

We have. 

JACK 

I should extremely like to meet them. What do 
they talk about ? 

ALGERNON 

The fools ? Oh ! about the clever people, of course. 

JACK 

What fools ! 

41 G 



ALGERNON 

By the way, did you tell Gwendolen the truth 
about your being Ernest in town, and Jack in the 
country ? 

JACK 

[In a very patronising manner^ My dear fellow, 
the truth isn't quite the sort of thing one tells to a 
nice sweet refined girl. What extraordinary ideas 
you have about the way to behave to a woman ! 

ALGERNON 

The only way to behave to a woman is to make 
love to her, if she is pretty, and to someone else if 
she is plain. 

JACK 

Oh, that is nonsense. 

ALGERNON 

What about your brother? What about the 
profligate Ernest? 

JACK 

Oh, before the end of the week I shall have got 
rid of him, I'll say he died in Paris of apoplexy. 
Lots of people die of apoplexy, quite suddenly, 
don't they? 

42 



ALGERNON 

Yes, but it 's hereditary, my dear fellow. It 's a 
sort of thing that runs in families. You had much 
better say a severe chill. 

JACK 

You are sure a severe chill isn't hereditary, or 
anything of that kind ? 

ALGERNON 

Of course it isn't ! 

JACK 

Very well, then. My poor brother Ernest is 
carried off suddenly in Paris, by a severe chill. 
That gets rid of him. 

ALGERNON 

But I thought you said that . . . Miss Cardew 
was a little too much interested in your poor brother 
Ernest ? Won't she feel his loss a good deal ? 

JACK 

Oh, that is all right. Cecily is not a silly romantic 
girl, I am glad to say. She has got a capital appetite, 
goes long walks, and pays no attention at all to her 
lessons. 

ALGERNON 

I would rather like to see Cecily. 
43 



JACK 

I will take very good care you never do. She is 
excessively pretty, and she is only just eighteen. 

ALGERNON 

Have you told Gwendolen yet that you have an 
excessively pretty ward who is only just eighteen ? 

JACK 

Oh ! one doesn't blurt these things out to people. 
Cecily and Gwendolen are perfectly certain to be 
extremely great friends. I'll bet you anything you 
like that half an hour after they have met, they will 
be calling each other sister. 

ALGERNON 

Women only do that when they have called each 
other a lot of other things first. Now, my dear boy, 
if we want to get a good table at Willis's, we really 
must go and dress. Do you know it is nearly seven ? 

JACK 

[^Irritably. ^ Oh ! it always is nearly seven 

ALGERNON 

Well, I'm hungry. 

44 



JACK 

I never knew you when you weren't. . . . 

ALGERNON 

What shall we do after dinner ? Go to a theatre ? 

JACK 

Oh no ! I loathe listening. 

ALGERNON 

Well, let us go to the Club ? 

JACK 

Oh, no ! I hate talking. 

ALGERNON 

Well, we might trot round to the Empire at ten ? 

JACK 

Oh no ! I can't bear looking at things. It is so 
silly. 

ALGERNON 

Well, what shall we do ? 

JACK 

Nothing ! 

45 



ALGERNON 

It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, 
I don't mind hard work where there is no definite 
object of any kind. 

[Enter Lane.] 

LANE 

Miss Fairfax. 

[Enter Gwendolen. Lane goes out.] 

ALGERNON 

Gwendolen, upon my word ! 

GWENDOLEN 

Algy, kindly turn your back. I have something 
very particular to say to Mr. Worthing. 

ALGERNON 

Really, Gwendolen, I don't think I can allow this 
at all. 

GWENDOLEN 

Algy, you always adopt a strictly immoral attitude 
towards life. You are not quite old enough to do 
that. [Algernon retires to the fireplace.] 

JACK 

My own darling ! 

46 



GWENDOLEN 

Ernest, we may never be married. From the 
expression on mamma's face I fear we never shall. 
Few parents now-a-days pay any regard to what 
their children say to them. The old-fashioned 
respect for the young is fast dying out. Whatever 
influence I ever had over mamma, I lost at the age 
of three. But although she may prevent us from 
becoming man and wife, and I may marry someone 
else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly 
do can alter my eternal devotion to you. . 

JACK 

Dear Gwendolen ! 

GWENDOLEN 

The story of your romantic origin, as related to 
me by mamma, with unpleasing comments, has 
naturally stirred the deeper fibres of my nature. 
Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination. 
The simplicity of your character makes you ex- 
quisitely incomprehensible to me. Your town ad- 
dress at the Albany I have. What is your address 
in the country ? 

JACK 

The Manor House, Woolton, Hertfordshire. 

[A/g-ernon, who has been carefully listening, smiles 
to hi7nself, and writes the address on his shirt-cuff. 
Then picks up the Railway Guide\ 

47 



GWENDOLEN 

There is a good postal service, I suppose? It 
may be necessary to do something desperate. That 
of course will require serious consideration. I will 
communicate with you daily. 

JACK 

My own one ! 

GWENDOLEN 

How long do you remain in town ? 

JACK 

Till Monday. 

GWENDOLEN 

Good ! Algy, you may turn round now. 

ALGERNON 

Thanks, I've turned round already. 
GWENDOLEN 

You may also ring the bell. 

JACK 

You will let me see you to your carriage, my 
own darling? 

GWENDOLEN 

Certainly. 

48 



JACK 

[ To Lane, who now enters.] I will see Miss Fairfax 
out. 

LANE 

Yes, sir. [Jack and Gwendolen go off.] 

\Lane presents several letters on asalver to Algernon. 
It is to be surmised that they are bills, as Algernon 
after looking at the envelopes, tears them up.] 

ALGERNON 

A glass of sherry, Lane. 

LANE 
Yes, sir. 

ALGERNON 

To-morrow, Lane, I'm going Bunburying. 

LANE 
Yes, sir. 

ALGERNON 

I shall probably not be back till Monday. You 
can put up my dress clothes, my smoking jacket, 
and all the Bunbury suits . . . 

49 H 



LANE 

Yes, sir. \Handing sherry^ 

ALGERNON 

I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane. 

LANE 

It never is, sir. 

ALGERNON 

Lane, you're a perfect pessimist. 

LANE 

I do my best to give satisfaction, sir. 
\Enter Jack. Lane goes off."] 

JACK 

There 's a sensible, intellectual girl ! the only girl I 
ever cared for in my life. [A/gernou is laughing 
immoderately ?\^ What on earth are you so amused at ? 

ALGERNON 

Oh, I'm a little anxious about poor Bunbury, that 
is all. 

JACK 

If )^ou don't take care, your friend Bunbury will 
get you into a serious scrape some day. 

50 



ALGERNON 

I love scrapes. They are the only things that are 
never serious. 

JACK 

Oh, that 's nonsense, Algy. You never talk any- 
thing but nonsense. 

ALGERNON 

Nobody ever does. 

\Jack looks indignantly at him, and leaves the 
room. Algernon lights a cigarette, reads his shirt- 
cuff, aud smiles. ] 



Act-drop. 



51 



SECOND ACT 



Scene — Garden at the Manor House. A flight 
of gray stone steps leads up to the house. The 
garden^ an old-fashioned one, full of roses. Time of 
year, fuly. Basket chairs, and a table covered with 
books, are set under a large yew tree. 

[Miss Prism discovered seated at the table. Cecily 
is at the back watering flowers^ 

MISS PRISM 

{Calling?^ Cecily, Cecily ! Surely such a utili- 
tarian occupation as the watering of flowers is rather 
Moulton's duty than yours ? Especially at a moment 
when intellectual pleasures await you. Your Ger- 
man grammar is on the table. Pray open it at page 
fifteen. We will repeat yesterday's lesson, 

CECILY 

[Coming over very slowly ."] But I don't like German. 
It isn't at all a becoming language. I know per- 
fectly well that I look quite plain after my German 
lesson. 

55 



MISS PRISM 

Child, you know how anxious your guardian is 
that you should improve yourself in every way. 
He laid particular stress on your German, as he 
was leaving for town yesterday. Indeed, he always 
lays stress on your German when he is leaving for 
town. 

CECILY 

Dear Uncle Jack is so very serious ! Sometimes 
he is so serious that I think he cannot be quite 
well. 

MISS PRISM 

[Drawing herself up. "] Your guardian enjoys the 
best of health, and his gravity of demeanour is 
especially to be commended in one so comparatively 
young as he is. I know no one who has a higher 
sense of duty and responsibility. 

CECILY 

I suppose that is why he often looks a little bored 
when we three are together. 

MISS PRISM 

Cecily ! I am surprised at you. Mr. Worthing 
has many troubles in his life. Idle merriment and 
triviality would be out of place in his conversation. 
You must remember his constant anxiety about 
that unfortunate young man his brother. 

56 



^ 



CECILY 

I wish Uncle Jack would allow that unfortunate 
young man, his brother, to come down here some- 
times. We might have a good influence over him, 
Miss Prism. I am sure you certainly would. You 
know German, and geology, and things of that kind 
influence a man very much. \Cecily begins to write 
in her diary. "l 

MISS PRISM 

\^Skaking her headJ] I do not think that even I 
could produce any effect on a character that ac- 
cording to his own brother's admission is irretriev- 
ably weak and vacillating. Indeed I am not sure 
that I would desire to reclaim him. I am not in 
favour of this modern mania for turning bad people 
into good people at a moment's notice. As a man 
sows so let him reap. You must put away your 
diary, Cecily. I really don't see why you should 
keep a diary at all. 

CECILY 

I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful 
secrets of my life. If I didn't write them down I 
should probably forget all about them. 

MISS PRISM 

Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all 
carry about with us. 

CECILY 

Yes, but it usually chronicles the things that have 
57 I 



never happened, and couldn't possibly have hap- 
pened. I believe that Memory is responsible for 
nearly all the three-volume novels that Mudie 
sends us. 



MISS PRISM 



Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume 
novel, Cecily. I wrote one myself in earlier days. 



CECILY 

Did you really. Miss Prism ? How wonderfully 
clever you are ! I hope it did not end happily ? I 
don't like novels that end happily. They depress 
me so much. 

MISS PRISM 

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. 
That is what Fiction means. 

CECILY 

I suppose so. But it seems very unfair. And 
was your novel ever published ? 

MISS PRISM 

Alas ! no. The manuscript unfortunately was 
abandoned. I use the word in the sense of lost or 
mislaid. To your work, child, these speculations 
are profitless. 

CECILY 

{Smiling.'] But I see dear Dr. Chasuble coming 
up through the garden. 

58 



MISS PRISM 

{^Rising and advancing?^ Dr. Chasuble ! This is 
indeed a pleasure. 

[Enter Canon Chasuble.'] 
CHASUBLE 

And how are we this morning ? Miss Prism, you 
are, I trust, well ? 

CECILY 

Miss Prism has just been complaining of a slight 
headache. I think it would do her so much good 
to have a short stroll with you in the Park, Dr. 
Chasuble. 

MISS PRISM 

Cecily, I have not mentioned anything about a 
headache. 

CECILY 

No, dear Miss Prism, I know that, but I felt in- 
stinctively that you had a headache. Indeed I was 
thinking about that, and not about my German 
lesson, when the Rector came in. 

CHASUBLE 

I hope Cecily, you are not inattentive. 

CECILY 

Oh, I am afraid I am. 

59 



CHASUBLE 

That is strange. Were I fortunate enough to be 
Miss Prism's pupil, I would hang upon her lips. 
[^Miss Prison glares.'] I spoke metaphorically. — My 
metaphor was drawn from bees. Ahem ! Mr. 
Worthing I suppose, has not returned from town yet? 

MISS PRISM 

We do not expect him till Monday afternoon. 

CHASUBLE 

Ah yes, he usually likes to spend his Sunday in 
London. He is not one of those whose sole aim is 
enjoyment, as, by all accounts, that unfortunate 
young man his brother seems to be. But I must 
not disturb Egeria and her pupil any longer. 

MISS PRISM 

Egeria ? My name is Laetitia, Doctor. 

CHASUBLE 

[Bowing.] A classical allusion merely, drawn from 
the Pagan authors. I shall see you both no doubt 
at Evensong ? 

MISS PRISM 

I think, dear Doctor, I will have a stroll with you. 
I find I have a headache after all, and a walk might 
do it good. 

60 



CHASUBLE 

With pleasure, Miss Prism, with pleasure. We 
might go as far as the schools and back. 

MISS PRISM 

That would be delightful. Cecily, you will read 
your Political Economy in my absence The 
chapter on the Fall of the Rupee you may omit. 
It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic 
problems have their melodramatic side. 

[Goes down the garden with Dr. Chasuble.l^ 

CECILY 

[Picks up books and throws them back on table."] 
Horrid Political Economy ! Horrid Geography ! 
Horrid, horrid German ! 

[Enter Merriman with a card on a salver^ 
MERRIMAN 

Mr. Ernest Worthing has just driven over from 
the station. He has brought his luggage with him. 

CECILY 

[ Takes the card and reads it.] " Mr. Ernest 
Worthing, B. 4 The Albany, W." Uncle Jack's 
brother ! Did you tell him Mr. Worthing was in 
town? 

61 



MERRIMAN 

Yes, Miss. He seemed very much disappointed. 
I mentioned that you and Miss Prism were in the 
garden. He said he was anxious to speak to you 
privately for a moment. 

CECILY 

Ask Mr. Ernest Worthing to come here. I 
suppose you had better talk to the housekeeper 
about a room for him. 

MERRIMAN 

Yes, Miss. \Merriman goes off^ 

CECILY 

I have never met any really wicked person before. 
I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look 
just like everyone else. 

{Enter Algernon^ very gay and debonnair.l 

He does ! 

ALGERNON 

[Raising his hat.'] You are my little cousin Cecily, 
I'm sure. 

CECILY 

You are under some strange mistake. I am not 
little. In fact, I believe I am more than usually tall 
for my age. [Algernon is rather taken abacki\ But 
I am your cousin Cecily. You, I see from your 

62 



card, are Uncle Jack's brother, my cousin Ernest, 
my wicked cousin Ernest 

ALGERNON 

Oh ! I am not really wicked at all, cousin Cecily. 
You mustn't think that I am wicked. 

CECILY 

If you are not, then you have certainly been de- 
ceiving us all in a very inexcusable manner. I hope 
you have not been leading a double life, pretending 
to be wicked and being really good all the time. 
That would be hypocrisy. 

ALGERNON 

[Looks at her in amazement.'] Oh ! Of course I 
have been rather reckless. 

CECILY 

I am glad to hear it. 

ALGERNON * 

In fact, now you mention the subject, I have been 
very bad in my own small way. 

CECILY 

I don't think you should be so proud of that, 
though I am sure it must have been very pleasant. 

ALGERNON 

It is much pleasanter being here with you. 
63 



CECILY 

I can't understand how you are here at all. Uncle 
Jack won't be back till Monday afternoon. 

ALGERNON 

That is a great disappointment. I am obliged 
to go up by the first train on Monday morning. I 
have a business appointment that I am anxious . . . 
to miss. 

CECILY 
Couldn't you miss it anywhere but in London. 

ALGERNON 

No : the appointment is in London. 

CECILY 

Well, I know, of course, how important it is not 
to keep a business engagement, if one wants to re- 
tain any sense of the beauty of life, but still I think 
you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives. I know 
he wants to speak to you about your emigrating. 

ALGERNON 

About my what ? 

CECILY 

Your emigrating. He has gone up to buy your 
outfit. 

64 



ALGERNON 



I certainly wouldn't let Jack buy my outfit. He 
has no taste in neckties at all. 

CECILY 

I don't think you will require neckties. Uncle 
Jack is sending you to Australia. 



ALGERNON 

Australia ! I 'd sooner die. 

CECILY 



Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that 
you would have to choose between this world, the 
next world, and Australia. 

ALGERNON 

Oh, well ! The accounts I have received of Aus- 
tralia and the next world, are not particularly en- 
couraging. This world is good enough for me, 
cousin Cecily. 

CECILY 

Yes, but are you good enough for it ? 

ALGERNON 

I'm afraid I'm not that. That is why I want you 
to reform me. You might make that your mission, 
if you don't mind, cousin Cecily. 

65 K 



CECILY 

I'm afraid I've no time, this afternoon. 
ALGERNON 

Well, would you mind my reforming myself this 
afternoon ? 

CECILY 

It is rather Quixotic of you. But I think you 
should try. 

ALGERNON 

I will. I feel better already. 
CECILY 

You are looking a little worse. 

ALGERNON 

That is because I am hungry. 

CECILY 

How thoughtless of me. I should have remem- 
bered that when one is going to lead an entirely 
new life, one requires regular and wholesome meals. 
Won't you come in ? 

ALGERNON 

Thank you. Might I have a button-hole first ? I 
never have any appetite unless I have a button-hole 
first. 

66 



CECILY 

A Mar^chale Niel ? [Picks up scissors.] 

ALGERNON 

No, I'd sooner have a pink rose. 

CECILY 

Why ? [Cuts a flower^ 

ALGERNON 

Because you are like a pink rose, Cousin Cecily. 

CECILY 

I don't think it can be right for you to talk to me 
like that. Miss Prism never says such things to me. 

ALGERNON 

Then Miss Prism is a short-sighted old lady. 
[Cecily puts the rose in his button-hole?^ You are the 
prettiest girl I ever saw. 

CECILY 

Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare. 

ALGERNON 

They are a snare that every sensible man would 
like to be caught in. 

67 



CECILY 

Oh ! I don't think I would care to catch a sensible 
man. I shouldn't know what to talk to him about. 

[ They pass into the house. Miss Prism and Dr. 
Chasuble return^ 

MISS PRISM 

You are too much alone, dear Dr. Chasuble. 
You should get married. A misanthrope I can 
understand — a womanthrope, never ! 

CHASUBLE 

[ With a scholar's shudder."] Believe me, I do not 
deserve so neologistic a phrase. The precept as 
well as the practice of the Primitive Church was 
distinctly against matrimony. 

MISS PRISM 

[Sententiously.] That is obviously the reason 
why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the 
present day. And you do not seem to realize, dear 
Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a 
man converts himself into a permanent public 
temptation. Men should be more careful ; this very 
celibacy leads weaker vessels astray. 

CHASUBLE 

But is a man not equally attractive when married? 
68 



MISS PRISM 

No married man is ever attractive except to his 
wife. 

CHASUBLE 

And often, I've been told, not even to her. 

MISS PRISM 

That depends on the intellectual sympathies of 
the woman. Maturity can always be depended on. 
Ripeness can be trusted. Young women are green. 
[Dk CJiasuble smarts.] I spoke horticulturally. My 
metaphor was drawn from fruits. But where is 
Cecily ? 

CHASUBLE 

Perhaps she followed us to the schools. 

[Enter Jack slowly from, the back of the garden. He 
is dressed in the deepest mournings with crape hat- 
band and black gloves.'] 

MISS PRISM 

Mr. Worthing ! 

CHASUBLE 

Mr, Worthing ? 

MISS PRISM 

This is indeed a surprise. We did not look for 
you till Monday afternoon. 

69 



JACK 

\^Shakes Miss Prismas hand in a tragic manner^ 
I have returned sooner than I expected. Dr. 
Chasuble, I hope you are well ? 

CHASUBLE 

Dear Mr. Worthing, I trust this garb of woe does 
not betoken some terrible calamity ? 

JACK 

My brother. 

MISS PRISM 

More shameful debts and extravagance ? 

CHASUBLE 

Still leading his life of pleasure ? 

JACK 

{^Shaking his head.'] Dead ! 
CHASUBLE 

Your brother Ernest dead ? 
JACK 

Quite dead. 

MISS PRISM 

What a lesson for him ! I trust he will profit by it. 
70 



CHASUBLE 

Mr. Worthing, I offer you my sincere condolence. 
You have at least the consolation of knowing that 
you were always the most generous and forgiving 
of brothers. 

JACK 

Poor Ernest ! He had many faults, but it is a 
sad, sad blow. 

CHASUBLE 

Very sad indeed. Were you with him at the end ? 

JACK 

No. He died abroad ; in Paris, in fact. I had a 
telegram last night from the manager of the Grand 
Hotel. 

CHASUBLE 

Was the cause of death mentioned ? 

JACK 

A severe chill, it seems. 

MISS PRISM 

As a man sows, so shall he reap. 

CHASUBLE 

[Raising his hand.'] Charity, dear Miss Prism, 
charity ! None of us are perfect. I myself am 

71 



peculiarly susceptible to draughts. Will the inter- 
ment take place here ? 

JACK 

No. He seemed to have expressed a desire to 
be buried in Paris. 

CHASUBLE 

In Paris ! [Shakes his head.'] I fear that hardly 
points to any very serious state of mind at the 
last. You would no doubt wish me to make some 
slight allusion to this tragic domestic affliction 
next Sunday. [Jack presses his hand convulsively. 1 
My sermon on the meaning of the manna in the 
wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion, 
joyful, or, as in the present case, distressing. \_All 
sigh.] I have preached it at harvest celebrations, 
christenings, confirmations, on days of humiliation 
and festal days. The last time I delivered it was in 
the Cathedral, as a charity sermon on behalf of the 
Society for the Prevention of Discontent among the 
Upper Orders. The Bishop, who was present, was 
much struck by some of the analogies I drew. 

JACK 

Ah ! that reminds me, you mentioned christenings 
I think. Dr. Chasuble? I suppose you know how 
to christen all right ? [Dr. Chasuble looks astounded.] 
I mean, of course, you are continually christening, 
aren't you ? 

72 



MISS PRISM 

It is, I regret to say, one of the Rector's most 
constant duties in this parish. I have often spoken 
to the poorer classes on the subject. But they 
don't seem to know what thrift is. 

CHASUBLE 

But is there any particular infant in whom you 
are interested, Mr. Worthing } Your brother was, 
I believe, unmarried, was he not ? 

JACK 
Oh yes. 

MISS PRISM 

[BtUer/j/.] People who live entirely for pleasure 
usually are. 

JACK 

But it is not for any child, dear Doctor. I am 
very fond of children. No ! the fact is, I would like 
to be christened myself, this afternoon, if you have 
nothing better to do. 

CHASUBLE 

But surely, Mr. Worthing, you have been chris- 
tened already ? 

JACK 

I (don't remember anything about it. 

73 L 



CHASUBLE 

But have you any grave doubts on the subject ? 

JACK • 

I certainly intend to have. Of course I don't 
know if the thing would bother j^ou in any way, or 
if you think I am a little too old now. 

CHASUBLE 

Not at all. The sprinkling, and, indeed, the im- 
mersion of adults is a perfectly canonical practice. 

JACK 

Immersion ! 

CHASUBLE 

You need have no apprehensions. Sprinkling is 
all that is necessary, or indeed I think advisable. 
Our weather is so changeable. At what hour would 
you wish the ceremony performed ? 

JACK 

Oh, I might trot round about five if that would 
suit you. 

CHASUBLE 

Perfectly, perfectly ! In fact I have two similar 
ceremonies to perform at that time. A case of twins 
that occurred recently in one of the outlying cottages 

74 



on your own estate. Poor Jenkins the carter, a most 
hard-working man. 

JACK 

Oh ! I don't see much fun in being christened 
along with other babies. It would be childish. 
Would half-past five do ? 

CHASUBLE 

» 

Admirably! Admirably! {Takes out watch.'] And 

now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude any 

longer into a house of sorrow. I would merely 

beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief. 

What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in 

disguise. 

MISS PRISM 

This seems to me a blessing of an extremely 
obvious kind. 

[^Enter Cecily from the house.] 

CECILY 

Uncle Jack ! Oh, I am pleased to see you back. 
But what horrid clothes you have got on ! Do go 
and change them. 

MISS PRISM 

Cecily ! 

75 



CHASUBLE 



My child ! my child ! [^Cecily goes towards Jack ; 
he kisses her brow in a melancholy manner^ 

CECILY 

What is the matter, Uncle Jack ? Do look happy ! 
You look as if you had toothache, and I have got 
such a surprise for you. Who do you think is in 
the dining-room ? Your brother ! 

JACK 
Who? 

CECILY 

Your brother Ernest. He arrived about half an 
hour ago. 

JACK 

What nonsense ! I haven't got a brother. 

CECILY 

Oh, don't say that. However badly he may have 
behaved to you in the past he is still your brother. 
You couldn't be so heartless as to disown him. I'll 
tell him to come out. And you will shake hands 
with him, won't you, Uncle Jack ? 

[Runs back into the houseJ] 

CHASUBLE 



These are very joyful tidings, 
76 



MISS PRISM 

After we had all been resigned to his loss, his 
sudden return seems to me peculiarly distressing. 

JACK 

My brother is in the dining-room ? I don't know 
what it all means. I think it is perfectly absurd. 

[Enter Algernon and Cecily liand in hand. They 
come slowly up to Jack.^ 

JACK 

Good heavens ! [Motions Algernon away.] 

ALGERNON 

Brother John, I have come down from town to 
tell you that I am very sorry for all the trouble I 
have given you, and that I intend to lead a better 
life in the future. [Jack glares at him and does not 
take his hand.] 

CECILY 

Uncle Jack, you are not going to refuse your own 
brother's hand ? 

JACK 

Nothing will induce me to take his hand. I 
think his coming down here disgraceful. He 
knows perfectly well why. 

77 



CECILY 

Uncle Jack, do be nice. There is some good in 
everyone. Ernest has just been telling me about 
his poor invalid friend Mr. Bunbury whom he goes 
to visit so often. And surely there must be much 
good in one who is kind to an invalid, and leaves 
the pleasures of London to sit by a bed of pain. 

JACK 

Oh ! he has been talking about Bunbury has he ? 

CECILY 

Yes, he has told me all about poor Mr. Bunbury, 
and his terrible state of health. 

JACK 

Bunbury ! Well, I won't have him talk to you 
about Bunbury or about anything else. It is 
enough to drive one perfectly frantic. 

ALGERNON 

Of course I admit that the faults were all on my 
side. But I must say that I think that Brother 
John's coldness to me is peculiarly painful. I 
expected a more enthusiastic welcome, especially 
considering it is the first time I have come here. 

CECILY 

Uncle Jack, if you don't shake hands with Ernest 
I will never forgive you. 

78 



JACK 

Never forgive me? 

CECILY 

Never, never, never ! 

JACK 

Well, this is the last time I shall ever do it. 
[Shakes hands with Algernon and glares.'] 

CHASUBLE 

It 's pleasant, is it not, to see so perfect a recon- 
ciliation ? I think we might leave the two brothers 
together. 

MISS PRISM 

Cecily, you will come with us. 

CECILY 

Certainly, Miss Prism. My little task of recon- 
ciliation is over. 

CHASUBLE 

You have done a beautiful action to-day, dear 
child. 

MISS PRISM 

We must not be premature in our judgments. 
79 



CECILY 

I feel very happy. [T/iey all go off.] 

JACK 

You young scoundrel, Algy, you must get out of 
this place as soon as possible. I don't allow any 
Bunburying here. 

[Enter Merriman.'] 

MERRIMAN 

I have put Mr. Ernest's things in the room next 
to yours, sir. I suppose that is all right ? 

JACK 
What? 

MERRIMAN 

Mr. Ernest's luggage, sir. I have unpacked it 
and put it in the room next to your 6wn. 

JACK 

His luggage? 

MERRIMAN 

Yes, sir. Three portmanteaus, a dressing-case, 
two hat-boxes, and a large luncheon-basket. 

ALGERNON 

I am afraid I can't stay more than a week this 
time. 

80 



JACK 

Merriman, order the dog-cart at once. Mr. 
Ernest has been suddenly called back to town. 

MERRIMAN 

Yes, sir. [Goes back into the liouse?)^ 

ALGERNON 

What a fearful liar you are, Jack. I have not 
been called back to town at all. 

JACK 

Yes, you have. 

ALGERNON 

1 haven't heard anyone call me. 

JACK 

Your duty as a gentleman calls you back. 

ALGERNON 

My duty as a gentleman has never interfered 
with my pleasures in the smallest degree. 

JACK 

I can quite understand that. 

ALGERNON 

Well, Cecily is a darling. 

8i M 



JACK 

You are not to talk of Miss Cardew like that. I 
don't like it. 

ALGERNON 

Well, I don't like your clothes. You look per- 
fectly ridiculous in them. Why on earth don't you 
go up and change? It is perfectly childish to be in 
deep mourning for a man who is actually staying for 
a whole week with you in your house as a guest. I 
call it grotesque. 

JACK 

You are certainly not staying with me for a whole 
week as a guest or anything else. You have got to 
leave ... by the four-five train. 

ALGERNON 

I certainly won't leave you so long as you are in 
mourning. It would be most unfriendly. If I were 
in mourning you would stay with me, I suppose. I 
should think it very unkind if you didn't. 

JACK 

Well, will you go if I change my clothes ? 

ALGERNON 

Yes, if you are not too long. I never saw any- 
body take so long to dress, and with such little 
result. 

82 



JACK 

Well, at any rate, that is better than being always 
over-dressed as you are. 

ALGERNON 

If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make 
up for it by being always immensely over-educated. 

JACK 

Your vanity is ridiculous, your conduct an out- 
rage, and your presence in my garden utterly 
absurd. However, you have got to catch the four- 
five, and I hope you will have a pleasant journey 
back to town. This Bunburying, as you call it, has 
not been a great success for you. 

[Goes into the /louse.] 

ALGERNON 

I think it has been a great success. I'm in love 
with Cecily, and that is everything. 

[Enter Cecily at the back of the garden. She picks 
up the can and begins to water the flowers?^ 

But I must see her before I go, and make arrange- 
ments for another Bunbury. Ah, there she is. 

CECILY 

Oh, I merely came back to water the roses. I 
thought you were with Uncle Jack. 

83 



ALGERNON 

He 's gone to order the dog-cart for me. 
CECILY 

Oh, is he going to take you for a nice drive ? 
ALGERNON 

He 's going to send me away. 
CECILY 

Then have we got to part ? 

ALGERNON 

I am afraid so. It 's a very painful parting. 
CECILY 

It is always painful to part from people whom 
one has known for a very brief space of time. The 
absence of old friends one can endure with equa- 
nimity. But even a momentary separation from 
anyone to whom one has just been introduced is 
almost unbearable. 

ALGERNON 
Thank you. 

[Enter Merriman^ 

MERRIMAN 

The dog-cart is at the door, sir. {^Algernon looks 
appealing ly at Cecily.'] 

84 



CECILY 

It can wait, Merriman , . . for . . . five minutes. 

MERRIMAN 

Yes, Miss. [Exit Merriman.] 

ALGERNON 

I hope, Cecily, I shall not offend you if I state 
quite frankly and openly that you seem to me to be 
in every way the visible personification of absolute 
perfection. 

CECILY 

I think your frankness does you great credit, 
Ernest, If you will allow me I will copy your 
remarks into my diary. [Goes over to table and 
begins writing in diary.'] 

ALGERNON 

Do you really keep a diary? I'd give anything 
to look at it. May I ? 

CECILY 

Oh no. [Puts her hand over it.] You see, it is 
simply a very young girl's record of her own thoughts 
and impressions, and consequently meant for publi- 
cation. When it appears in volume form I hope 
you will order a copy. But pray, Ernest, don't 
stop. I delight in taking down from dictation. I 
have reached " absolute perfection." You can go 
on. I am quite ready for more. 

85 



ALGERNON 

[Somewhat taken adack.] Ahem ! Ahem ! 

CECILY 

Oh, don't cough, Ernest. When one is dictating 
one should speak fluently and not cough. Besides, 
I don't know how to spell a cough. [ Writes as 
Algernon speaks^ 

ALGERNON 

[Speaking very rapidly^ Cecily, ever since I first 
looked upon your wonderful and incomparable 
beauty, I have dared to love you wildly, passion- 
ately, devotedly, hopelessly. 

CECILY 

I don't think that you should tell me that you 
love me wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly. 
Hopelessly doesn't seem to make much sense, does 
it? 

ALGERNON 
Cecily ! 

[Enter Merriman.'] 

MERRIMAN 

The dog-cart is waiting, sir. 
86 



ALGERNON 

Tell it to come round next week, at the same 
hour. 

MERRIMAN 

[^Looks at Cecily, who makes no sign.'] Yes, sir. 

'[Merriman retires.'] 

CECILY 

Uncle Jack would be very much annoyed if he 
knew you were staying on till next week, at the 
same hour. 

ALGERNON 

Oh, I don't care about Jack. I don't care for 
anybody in the whole world but you. I love you, 
Cecily. You will marry me, won't you ? 

CECILY 

You silly boy ! Of course. Why, we have been 
engaged for the last three months. 

ALGERNON 

For the last three months ? 

CECILY 
Yes, it will be exactly three months on Thursday. 

ALGERNON 

But how did we become engaged ? 
87 



CECILY 

Well, ever since dear Uncle Jack first confessed 
to us that he had a younger brother who was very- 
wicked and bad, you of course have formed the 
chief topic of conversation between myself and Miss 
Prism. And of course a man who is much talked 
about is always very attractive. One feels there 
must be something in him after all. I daresay it 
was foolish of me, but I fell in love with you, 
Ernest. 

ALGERNON 

Darling ! And when was the engagement actually 
settled ? 

CECILY 

On the 14th of February last. Worn out by your 
entire ignorance of my existence, I determined 
to end the matter one way or the other, and after a 
long struggle with myself I accepted you under this 
dear old tree here. The next day I bought this 
little ring in your name, and this is the little bangle 
with the true lovers' knot I promised you always to 
wear. 

ALGERNON 

Did I give you this ? It 's very pretty, isn't it ? 

CECILY 

Yes, you've wonderfully good taste, Ernest. It's 
the excuse I've always given for your leading such 

88 



a bad life. And this is the box in which I keep all 
your dear letters. {Kneels at table, opens box, and 
produces letters tied up with blue ribbon^ 

ALGERNON 

My letters ! But my own sweet Cecily, I have 
never written you any letters. 

CECILY 

You need hardly remind me of that, Ernest. I 
remember only too well that I was forced to write 
your letters for you. I wrote always three times a 
week, and sometimes oftener. 

ALGERNON 

Oh, do let me read them, Cecily ? 

CECILY 

Oh, I couldn't possibly. They would make you 
far too conceited. {Replaces box.] The three you 
wrote me after I had broken off the engagement are 
so beautiful, and so badly spelled, that even now I 
can hardly read them without crying a little. 

ALGERNON 

But was our engagement ever broken off? 

CECILY 

Of course it was. On the 22nd of last March. 
You can see the entry if you like. [S/ioivs diary.] 

89 N 



" To-day I broke off my engagement with Ernest. 
I feel it is better to do so. The weather still con- 
tinues charming." 



ALGERNON 



But why on earth did you break it off? What 
had I done ? I had done nothing at all. Cecily, I 
am very much hurt indeed to hear you broke it off. 
Particularly when the weather was so charming. 



CECILY 



It would hardly have been a really serious en- 
gagement if it hadn't been broken off at least once. 
But I forgave you before the week was out. 



ALGERNON 



[Crossing" to her, and kneeling^ What a perfect 
angel you are, Cecily. 

CECILY 

You dear romantic boy. \He kisses her, she puts 
her fingers through his hair.l I hope your hair curls 
naturally, does it ? 

ALGERNON 

Yes, darling, with a little help from others. 

CECILY 

I am so glad. 

90 



ALGERNON 

You'll never break off our engagement again, 
Cecily ? 

CECILY 

I don't think I could break it off now that I have 
actually met you. Besides, of course, there is the 
question of your name. 

ALGERNON 

Yes, of course. [Nervously.] 

CECILY 

You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had 
always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one 
whose name was Ernest. [Algernon rises, Cecily 
also.] There is something in that name that seems 
to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor 
married woman whose husband is not called Ernest. 

ALGERNON 

But, my dear child, do you mean to say you could 
not love me if I had some other name ? 

CECILY 

But what name ? 

ALGERNON 

Oh, any name you like — Algernon — for in- 
stance . . , 

91 



CECILY 

But I don't like the name of Algernon, 

ALGERNON 

Well, my own dear, sweet, loving little darling, 
I really can't see why you should object to the 
name of Algernon. It is not at all a bad name. 
In fact, it is rather an aristocratic name. Half of 
the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are 
called Algernon. But seriously, Cecily . . . '[Moving 
to her] ... if my name was Algy, couldn't you love 
me? 

CECILY 

\^Rising.'\ I might respect you, Ernest, I might 
admire your character, but I fear that I should not 
be able to give you my undivided attention. 

ALGERNON 

Ahem ! Cecily ! [Picking up hat.'] Your Rector 
here is, I suppose, thoroughly experienced in the 
practice of all the rites and ceremonials of the 
Church ? 

CECILY 

Oh yes. Dr. Chasuble is a most learned man. 
He has never written a single book, so you can 
imagine how much he knows. 

ALGERNON 

I must see him at once on a most important 
christening — I mean on most important business. 

92 



CECILY 
Oh! 

ALGERNON 

I shan't be away more than half an hour. 

CECILY 

Considering that we have been engaged since 
February the 14th, and that I only met you to-day for 
the first time, I think it is rather hard that you 
should leave me for so long a period as half an hour. 
Couldn't you make it twenty minutes ? 

ALGERNON 

I'll be back in no time. 

[Kisses her and ruslies down the garden?^ 

CECILY 

What an impetuous boy he is ! I like his hair so 
much. I must enter his proposal in my diary. 

{Enter Merriman.'] 

MERRIMAN 

A Miss Fairfax has just called to see Mr. Worthing. 
On very important business Miss Fairfax states. 

CECILY 

Isn't Mr. Worthing in his library ? 
93 



MERRIMAN 



Mr. Worthing went over in the direction of the 
Rectory some time ago. 

CECILY 

Pray ask the lady to come out here; Mr. Worthing 
is sure to be back soon. And you can bring tea. 

MERRIMAN 

Yes, Miss. [Goes out.] 

CECILY 

Miss Fairfax ! I suppose one of the many good 
elderly women who are associated with Uncle Jack 
in some of his philanthropic work in London. I don't 
quite like women who are interested in philanthropic 
work. I think it is so forward of them. 

[Enter Merriman.'] 

MERRIMAN 

Miss Fairfax. 

[Enter Gwendolen.'] [Exit Merriman.'] 

CECILY 

[Advancing to meet her.] Pray let me introduce 
myself to you. My name is Cecily Cardew. 

94 



GWENDOLEN 

CecilyCardew? \Movingto her and shaking hands ^ 
What a very sweet name ! Something tells me that 
we are going to be great friends. I like you already 
more than I can say. My first impressions of people 
are never wrong. 

CECILY 

How nice of you to like me so much after we have 
known each other such a comparatively short time. 
Pray sit down. 

GWENDOLEN 

{Still standing upi] I may call you Cecily, may I 
not? 

CECILY 

With pleasure ! 

GWENDOLEN 

And you will always call me Gwendolen, won't 
you. 

CECILY 

If you wish. 

GWENDOLEN 

Then that is all quite settled, is it not ? 
95 



CECILY 

I hope so. [A pause. They both sit down together^ 

GWENDOLEN 

Perhaps this might be a favourable opportunity 
for my mentioning who I am. My father is Lord 
Bracknell. You have never heard of papa, I suppose ? 

CECILY 

I don't think so. 

GWENDOLEN 

Outside the family circle, papa, I am glad to say, 
is entirely unknown. I think that is quite as it 
should be. The home seems to me to be the proper 
sphere for the man. And certainly once a man 
begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes 
painfully effeminate, does he not ? And I don't like 
that. It makes men so very attractive. Cecily, 
mamma, whose views on education are remarkably 
strict, has brought me up to be extremely short- 
sighted ; it is part of her system ; so do you mind 
my looking at you through my glasses ? 

CECILY 

Oh! not at all, Gwendolen. I am very, fond of 
being looked at. 

GWENDOLEN 

\After examining Cecily carefully through a lorg- 
nette^ You are here on a short visit I suppose. 

96 



CECILY 

Oh no ! I live here. 

GWENDOLEN 

[Severe/y.] Really? Your mother, no doubt, or 
some female relative of advanced years, resides 
here also ? 

CECILY 

Oh no ! I have no mother, nor, in fact, any relations. 

GWENDOLEN 
Indeed ? 

CECILY 

My dear guardian, with the assistance of Miss 
Prism, has the arduous task of looking after me. 

GWENDOLEN 

Your guardian ? 

CECILY 

Yes, I am Mr. Worthing's ward. 

GWENDOLEN 

Oh ! It is strange he never mentioned to me 
that he had a ward. How secretive of him ! He 
grows more interesting hourly. I am not sure, 
however, that the news inspires me with feelings of 

97 O 



unmixed delight. [^Rising and going to heri] lam 
very fond of you, Cecily ; I have liked you ever 
since I met you ! But I am bound to state that 
now that I know that you are Mr. Worthing's ward, 
I cannot help expressing a wish you were — well 
just a little older than you seem to be — and not 
quite so very alluring in appearance. In fact, if I 
may speak candidly 

CECILY 

Pray do ! I think that whenever one has any- 
thing unpleasant to say, one should always be quite 
candid. 

GWENDOLEN 

Well, to speak with perfect candour, Cecily, I wish 
that you were fully forty-two, and more than usually 
plain for your age. Ernest has a strong upright 
nature. He is the very soul of truth and honour. 
Disloyalty would be as impossible to him as decep- 
tion. But even men of the noblest possible moral 
character are extremely susceptible to the influence 
of the physical charms of others. Modern, no 
less then Ancient History, supplies us with many 
most painful examples of what I refer to. If it were 
not so, indeed, History would be quite unreadable. 

CECILY 

I beg your pardon, Gwendolen, did you say Ernest? 

GWENDOLEN 

Yes. 

98 



CECILY 

Oh, but it is not Mr. Ernest Worthing who is my 
guardian. It is his brother — his elder brother. 

GWENDOLEN t 

[Sitting down again.'] Ernest never mentioned to 
me that he had a brother. 

CECILY 

I am sorry to say they have not been on good 
terms for a long time. 

GWENDOLEN 

Ah ! that accounts for it. And now that I think 
of it I have never heard any man mention his brother. 
The subject seems distasteful to most men. Cecily, 
you have lifted a load from my mind. I was growing 
almost anxious. It would have been terrible if any 
cloud had come across a friendship like ours, would 
it not ? Of course you are quite, quite sure that it 
is not Mr. Ernest Worthing who is your guardian ? 

CECILY 

Quite sure. [A pause.] In fact, I am going to 
be his. 

GWENDOLEN 

[Enquiringly.] I beg your pardon ? 
99 



CECILY 

[Rather shy and confidingly.] Dearest Gwendolen, 
there is no reason why I should make a secret of it 
to you. Our little county newspaper is sure to 
chronicle the fact next week. Mr. Ernest Worthing 
and I are engaged to be married. 

GWENDOLEN 

[Quite politely, rising.] My darling Cecily, I think 
there must be some slight error. Mr. Ernest 
Worthing is engaged to me. The announcement 
will appear in the " Morning Post " on Saturday at 
the latest. 

CECILY 

[ Very politely, rising.] I am afraid you must be 
under some misconception. Ernest proposed to 
me exactly ten minutes ago. [Shows diary.] 

GWENDOLEN 

[Examines diary through her lorgnette carefully^ 
It is certainly very curious, for he asked me to be 
his wife yesterday afternoon at 5.30. If you would 
care to verify the incident, pray do so. [Produces 
diary of her own.] I never travel without my diary. 
One should always have something sensational to 
read in the train. I am so sorry, dear Cecily, if it 
is any disappointment to you, but I am afraid / 
have the prior claim. 

100 



CECILY 



It would distress me more than I can tell you, 
dear Gwendolen, if it caused you any mental or 
physical anguish, but I feel bound to point out that 
since Ernest proposed to you he clearly has changed 
his mind. 



GWENDOLEN 



[^Meditatively.'] If the poor fellow has been 
entrapped into any foolish promise I shall consider 
it my duty to rescue him at once, and with a firm 
hand. 



CECILY 



[ Thoughtfully and sadly.] Whatever unfortunate 
entanglement my dear boy may have got into, 
I will never reproach him with it after we are 
married. 



GWENDOLEN 



Do you allude to me. Miss Cardew, as an en- 
tanglement? You are presumptuous. On an 
occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral 
duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure. 



CECILY 



Do you suggest. Miss Fairfax, that I entrapped 
Ernest into an engagement ? How dare you ? 
This is no time for wearing the shallow mask of 
manners. When I see a spade I call it a spade. 
JOI 



GWENDOLEN 

[Safz'rica/fy.] I am glad to say that I have never 
seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres 
have been widely different. 

[Enter Merriman, followed by the footman. He 
carries a salver, table cloth, and plate stand. Cecily 
is about to retort. The presence of the servants exer- 
cises a restraining influence, under which both girls 
chafe.'] 

MERRIMAN 

Shall I lay tea here as usual, Miss ? 

CECILY 

[Stei'-nly, in a calm voice.] Yes, as usual. [Mer- 
riman begins to clear table and lay cloth. A long 
pause. Cecily and Gwendolen glare at each other?] 

GWENDOLEN 

Are there many interesting walks in the vicinity. 
Miss Cardew ? 

CECILY 

Oh ! yes ! a great many. From the top of one 
of the hills quite close one can see five counties. 

GWENDOLEN 

Five counties ! I don't think I should like that 
I hate crowds. 

103 



CECILY 



[Sweet/y.] I suppose that is why you Hve in 
town ? \Gwendolen bites her lip, aftd beats her foot 
nervously with her parasoli] 

GWENDOLEN 

[Looking round.'] Quite a well-kept garden this 
is, Miss Cardew. 

CECILY 

So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax. 

GWENDOLEN 

I had no idea there were any flowers in the 
country. 

CECILY 

Oh, flowers are as common here. Miss Fairfax, 
as people are in London. 

GWENDOLEN 

Personally I cannot understand how anybody 
manages to exist in the country, if anybody who is 
anybody does. The country always bores me to 
death. 

CECILY 

Ah ! This is what the newspapers call agricul- 
tural depression, is it not ? I believe the aristocracy 
are suffering very much from it just at present. It 

103 



is almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been 
told. May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax ? 

GWENDOLEN- 

\With elaborate politeness^ Thank you. \Aside?[ 
Detestable girl ! But I require tea ! 

CECILY 

\Sweetly^ Sugar ? 

GWENDOLEN 

[^Stiperciliously.'] No, thank you. Sugar is not 
fashionable any more. {^Cecily looks angrily at her, 
takes up the tongs and puts four lumps of sugar into 
the cup.] 

CECILY 

[Severely.] Cake or bread and butter ? 

GWENDOLEN 

[In a bored manner^ Bread and butter, please. 
Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays. 

CECILY 

[Cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the 
tray.] Hand that to Miss Fairfax. 

[Merriman does so, and goes out with footman. 
Gwendolen drinks the tea and makes a grimace. 
Puts down cup at once, reaches out her hand to the 
bread and butter, looks at it, and finds it is cake. 
Rises in indignation?] 

104 



GWENDOLEN 

You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and 
though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, 
you have given me cake. I am known for the 
gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary 
sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss 
Cardew, you may go too far. 

CECILY 

[Rising:] To save my poor, innocent, trusting 
boy from the machinations of any other girl there 
are no lengths to which I would not go. 

GWENDOLEN 

From the moment I saw you I distrusted you. 
I felt that you were false and deceitful. I am never 
deceived in such matters. My first impressions of 
people are invariably right. 

CECILY 

It seems to me, Miss Fairfax, that I am tres- 
passing on your valuable time. No doubt you 
have many other calls of a similar character to 
make in the neighbourhood. 

[EnUr Jack.] 

GWENDOLEN 

l^Catching sight of hmi.'\ Ernest 1 My own 
Ernest ! 

105 P 



JACK 

Gwendolen ! Darling ! {Offers to kiss her.'] 
GWENDOLEN 

{Drawing back.] A moment! May I ask if 
you are engaged to be married to this young lady ? 
{Points to Cecily?] 

JACK 

{Laughing?^ To dear little Cecily ! Of course 
not ! What could have put such an idea into your 
pretty little head ? 

GWENDOLEN 

Thank you. You may ! {Offers her cheeky 

CECILY 

# [ Very sweetly \ I knew there must be some 
misunderstanding, Miss Fairfax. The gentleman 
whose arm is at present round your waist is my 
dear guardian, Mr. John Worthing. 

GWENDOLEN 

I beg your pardon ? 

CECILY 

This is Uncle Jack. 

GWENDOLEN 

{Receding^^ Jack ! Oh ! 
1 06 



[Enter Algernon.'] 
CECILY 

Here is Ernest. 

ALGERNON 

[Goes straight over to Cecily without noticing any- 
one else.] My own love ! [Offers to kiss her.] 

CECILY 

[Drawing back.] A moment, Ernest! May I 
ask you — are you engaged to be married to this 
young lady ? 

ALGERNON 

[Looking round.] To what young lady ? Good 
heavens ! Gwendolen ! 

CECILY 

Yes! to good heavens, Gwendolen, I mean to 
Gwendolen. 

ALGERNON 

[Laughing.] Of course not ! What could have 
put such an idea into your pretty little head ? 

CECILY 

Thank you. [Presenting her cheek to be kissed^ 
You may. [A Igernon kisses her.] 
107 



GWENDOLEN 



I felt there was some slight error, Miss Cardew. 
The gentleman who is now embracing you is my 
cousin, Mr. Algernon Moncrieff. 

CECILY 

[Breaking" away from A Igernon.'] Algernon M on - 
crieff ! Oh ! [ The two girls move towards each other 
and put their arms round each other's waists as if for 
protection.'] 

CECILY 

Are you called Algernon ? 

ALGERNON 

I cannot deny it. 

CECILY 

Oh! 

GWENDOLEN 

Is your name really John ? 

JACK 

[Standing rather proudly.] I could deny it if I 
liked. I could deny anything if I liked. But my 
name certainly is John. It has been John for 
years. 

1 08 



CECILY 

[To Gwendoleti.'] A gross deception has been 
practised on both of us. 

GWENDOLEN 

My poor wounded Cecily ! 

CECILY 

My sweet wronged Gwendolen ! 

GWENDOLEN 

[Slowly and seriously.'] You will call me sister, 
will you not? [They embrace. Jack and Algernon 
groan and walk up and down.] 

CECILY 

[Rather brightly.] There is just one question I 
would like to be allowed to ask my guardian. 

GWENDOLEN 

An admirable idea ! Mr. Worthing, there is just 
one question I would like to be permitted to put to 
you. Where is your brother Ernest ? We are both 
engaged to be married to your brother Ernest, so it 
is a matter of some importance to us to know where 
your brother Ernest is at present. 

JACK 

[Slowly and hesitatingly.] Gwendolen — Cecily 
109 



— it is very painful for me to be forced to speak 
the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have 
ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I 
am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of 
the kind. However I will tell you quite frankly 
that I have no brother Ernest. I have no brother 
at all. I never had a brother in my life, and I 
certainly have not the smallest intention of ever 
having one in the future. 

CECILY 

[^Surprised.'] No brother at all ? 

JACK 

\^Cheerily.'\ None ! 

GWENDOLEN 

\^Severely.'] Had you never a brother of any 
kind? 

JACK 

[^Pleasantly.'] Never. Not even of any kind. 

GWENDOLEN 

I am afraid it is quite clear, Cecily, that neither 
of us is engaged to be married to anyone. 

CECILY 

It is not a very pleasant position for a young 
girl suddenly to find herself in. Is it ? 

no 



GWENDOLEN 

Let US go into the house. They will hardly 
venture to come after us there. 



CECILY 

No, men are so cowardly, aren't they ? 

[ They retire into the house with scornful looks .^^ 

JACK 

This ghastly state of things is what you call 
Bunburying, I suppose? 

ALGERNON 

Yes, and a perfectly wonderful Bunbury it is. 
The most wonderful Bunbury I have ever had in 
my life. 

JACK 

Well, you've no right whatsoever to Bunbury 
here. 

ALGERNON 

That is absurd. One has a right to Bunbury 
anywhere one chooses. Every serious Bunburyist 
knows that. 

JACK 

Serious Bunburyist ! Good heavens ! 
Ill 



ALGERNON! 

Well, one must be serious about something, if 
one wants to have any amusement in life. I 
happen to be serious about Bunburying. What 
on earth you are serious about I haven't got the 
remotest idea. About everything, I should fancy. 
You have such an absolutely trivial nature. 

JACK 

Well, the only small satisfaction I have in the 
whole of this wretched business is that your friend 
Bunbury is quite exploded. You won't be able to 
run down to the country quite so often as you used 
to do, dear Algy. And a very good thing too. 

ALGERNON 

Your brother is a little off colour, isn't he, dear 
Jack } You won't be able to disappear to London 
quite so frequently as your wicked custom was. 
And not a bad thing either. 

JACK 

As for your conduct towards Miss Cardew, I 
must say that your taking in a sweet,simple,innocent 
girl like that is quite inexcusable. To say nothing 
of the fact that she is my ward. 

ALGERNON 

I can see no possible defence at all for your 
deceiving a brilliant, clever, thoroughly experienced 

112 



young lady like Miss Fairfax. To say nothing of 
the fact that she is my cousin. 

JACK 

I wanted to be engaged to Gwendolen, that is 
all. I love her. 

ALGERNON 

Well, I simply wanted to be engaged to Cecily. 
I adore her. 

JACK 

There is certainly no chance of your marrying 
Miss Cardew. 

ALGERNON 

I don't think there is much likelihood. Jack, of 
you and Miss Fairfax being united. 

JACK 

Well, that is no business of yours. 

ALGERNON 

If it was my business, I wouldn't talk about it. 
[Begins to eat muffins^ It is very vulgar to talk 
about one's business. Only people like stockbroker's 
do that, and then merely at dinner parties. 

JACK 

How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when 
113 Q 



we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. 
You seem to me to be perfectly heartless. 

ALGERNON 

Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. 
The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One 
should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the 
only way to eat them. 

JACK 

I say it 's perfectly heartless your eating muffins 
at all, under the circumstances. 

ALGERNON 

When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing 
that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really 
great trouble, as anyone who knows me intimately 
will tell you, I refuse everything except food and 
drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins 
because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly 
fond of muffins. [Rtsmg:] 

JACK 

[Rt'sm^^.] Well, that is no reason why you should 
eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes mu-ffins 
from Algernon?^ 

ALGERNON 

{Offering tea-cake.'] I wish you would have tea- 
cake instead. I don't like tea-cake. 

114 



JACK 

Good heavens ! I suppose a man may eat his 
own muffins in his own garden. 

ALGERNON 

But you have just said it was perfectly heartless 
to eat muffins. 

JACK 

I said it was perfectly heartless of you, under the 
circumstances. That is a very different thing. 



ALGERNON 

That may be. But the muffins are the same. 
[//> seizes the muffin-dish from J ack?^ 

JACK 

Algy, I wish to goodness you would go. 

ALGERNON 

You can't possibly ask me to go without having 
some dinner. It 's absurd. I never go without my 
dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and 
people like that. Besides I have just made arrange- 
ments with Dr. Chasuble to be christened at a 
quarter to six under the name of Erne§t. 

"5 



JACK 

My dear fellow, the sooner you give up that non- 
sense the better. I made arrangements this morning 
with Dr. Chasuble to be christened myself at 5.30, 
and I naturally will take the name of Ernest, 
Gwendolen would wish it. We can't both be chris- 
tened Ernest. It 's absurd. Besides, I have a perfect 
right to be christened if I like. There is no evidence 
at all that I ever have been christened by anybody. 
I should think it extremely probable I never was, 
and so does Dr. Chasuble. It is entirely different 
in your case. You have been christened already. 

ALGERNON 

Yes, but I have not been christened for years. 

JACK 

Yes, but you have been christened. That is the 
important thing. 

ALGERNON 

Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand 
it. If you are not quite sure about your ever having 
been christened, I must say I think it rather dan- 
gerous your venturing on it now. It might make 
you very unwell. You can hardly have forgotten 
that someone very closely connected with you was 
very nearly carried off this week in Paris by a 
severe chill. 

u6 



JACK 

Yes, but you said yourself that a severe chill was 
not hereditary. 

ALGERNON 

It usen't to be, I know — but I daresay it is now. 
Science is always making wonderful improvements 
in things. 

JACK 

[^Picking up the muffiti-dish?[ Oh, that is nonsense ; 
you are always talking nonsense. 

ALGERNON 

Jack, you are at the muffins again ! I wish you 
wouldn't. There are only two left. YTakes them?^ 
I told you I was particularly fond of muffins. 

JACK 

But I hate tea-cake. 

ALGERNON 

Why on earth then do you allow tea-cake to be 
served up for your guests ? What ideas you have 
of hospitality ! 

JACK 

Algernon ! I have already told you to go. I 
don't want you here. Why don't you go ! 

117 



ALGERNON 



I haven't quite finished my tea yet ! and there 
is still one mufifin left. \Jack groans, and sinks into 
a chair. Algernon still continues eating^ 



Act-drop. 



u8 



THIRD ACT 



Scene — Moming-room at tJie Manor House. 

{Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window^ looking 
out into the garden^ 

GWENDOLEN 

The fact that they did not follow us at once into 
the house, as anyone else would have done, seems 
to me to show that they have some sense of shame 
left 

CECILY 

They have been eating muffins. That looks like 
repentance. 

GWENDOLEN 

\After a pause."] They don't seem to notice us 
at all. Couldn't you cough ? 

CECILY 

But I haven't got a cough. 

GWENDOLEN 

They're looking at us. What effrontery ! 

121 R 



CECILY 

They're approaching. That's very forward of 
them. 

GWENDOLEN 

Let us preserve a dignified silence. 

CECILY 

Certainly. It's the only thing to do now, 

{Enter Jack followed by Algernon. They whistle 
some dreadful popular air from a British Opera.'] 

GWENDOLEN 

This dignified silence seems to produce an un- 
pleasant effect. 

CECILY 

A most distasteful one. 

GWENDOLEN 

But we will not be the first to speak. 

CECILY 

Certainly not. 

GWENDOLEN 

Mr. Worthing, I have something very particular 
to ask you. Much depends on your reply . 

122 



CECILY 

Gwendolen, your common sense is invaluable. 
Mr. Moncrieff, kindly answer me the following 
question. Why did you pretend to be my guard ian's 
brother ? 

ALGERNON 0. 

In order that I might have an opportunity of 
meeting you. 

CECILY 

[To Gwendolen.'] That certainly seems a satis- 
factory explanation, does it not ? 

GWENDOLEN 

Yes, dear, if you can believe him. 

CECILY 

I don't But that does not affect the wonderful 
beauty of his answer. 

GWENDOLEN 

True. In matters of grave importance, style, not 
sincerity is the vital thing. Mr. Worthing, what 
explanation can you offer to me for pretending to 
have a brother? Was it in order that you might 
have an opportunity of coming up to town to see 
me as often as possible ? 

JACK 

Can you doubt it. Miss Fairfax ? 
123 



GWENDOLEN 

I have the gravest doubts upon the subject. But 
I intend to crush them. This is not the moment 
for German scepticism. [^Moving to Cecily.'] Their 
explanations appear to be quite satisfactory, es- 
pecially Mr. Worthing's. That seems to me to have 
the stamp of truth upon it. 

CECILY 

I am more than content with what Mr. Moncrieff 
said. His voice alone inspires one with absolute 
credulity. 

GWENDOLEN 

Then you think we should forgive them ? 

CECILY 

Yes. I mean no. 

GWENDOLEN 

True ! I had forgotten. There are principles at 
stake that one cannot surrender. Which of us 
should tell them ? The task is not a pleasant one. 

CECILY 

Could we not both speak at the same time? 

GWENDOLEN 

An excellent idea ! I nearly always speak at the 
same time as other people. Will you take the time 
from me? 

124 



CECILY 

Certainly. [^Gwendolen beats time with uplifted 
finger.'] 

GWENDOLEN and CECILY 

{^Speaking together^ Your Christian names are 
still an insuperable barrier. That is all ! 

JACK and ALGERNON 

{^Speaking together^] Our Christian names ! Is 
that all ? But we are going to be christened this 
afternoon. 

GWENDOLEN 

[ 71? yack^ For my sake you are prepared to do 
this terrible thing ? 

JACK 
I am. 

CECILY 

\^To Algernon.] To please me you are ready to 
face this fearful ordeal ? 

ALGERNON 

I am! 

GWENDOLEN 

How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes ! 
125 



Where questions of self-sacrifice are concerned, men 
are infinitely beyond us. 

JACK 

We are. [^Clasps hands with Algernon.'] 

CECILY 

They have moments of physical courage of which 
we women know absolutely nothing. 

GWENDOLEN 

[To Jack.l Darling! 

ALGERNON 

[ To Cecily.'] Darling ! [ They fall into each othet's 
arms.] 

[Enter Merriman. "When he enters he coughs 
loudly^ seeing the situation.] 

MERRIMAN 

Ahem ! Ahem ! Lady Bracknell ! 

JACK 

Good heavens ! 

[Enter Lady Bracknell. The couples separate in 
alarm. Exit Merriman?^ 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Gwendolen ! What does this mean ? 
126 



GWENDOLEN 

Merely that I am engaged to be married to Mr. 
Worthing, mamma. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Come here. Sit down. Sit down immediately. 
Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay 
in the young, of physical weakness in the old. 
\_Ttirns to Jack.'] Apprised, sir, of my daughter's 
sudden flight by her trusty maid, whose confidence 
I purchased by means of a small coin, I followed 
her at once by a luggage train. Her unhappy 
father is, I am glad to say, under the impression 
that she is attending a more than usually lengthy 
lecture by the University Extension Scheme on the 
Influence of a permanent income on Thought. I do 
not propose to undeceive him. Indeed I have never 
undeceived him on any question. I would consider 
it wrong. But of course, you will clearly under- 
stand that all communication between yourself and 
my daughter must cease immediately from this 
moment. On this point, as indeed on all points, I 
am firm. 

JACK 

I am engaged to be married to Gwendolen, Lady 
Bracknell ! 

LADY BRACKNELL 

You are nothing of the kind, sir. And now, as 
regards Algernon ! . . . . Algernon 1 
127 



ALGERNON 

Yes, Aunt Augusta. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

May I ask if it is in this house that your invalid 
friend Mr. Bunbury resides ? 

ALGERNON 

[Stammering.] Oh! No! Bunbury doesn't live 
here. Bunbury is somewhere else at present. In 
fact, Bunbury is dead. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Dead ! When did Mr. Bunbury die ? His death 
must have been extremely sudden. 

ALGERNON 

[Atrzlj/.] Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon. 
I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

What did he die of? 

ALGERNON 

Bunbury ? Oh, he was quite exploded. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Exploded ! Was he the victim of a revolutionary 
outrage ? I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was 

128 



interested in social legislation. If so, he is well 
punished for his morbidity. 



ALGERNON 

My dear Aunt Augusta, I mean he was found 
out ! The doctors found out that Bunbury could 
not live, that is what I mean — so Bunbury died. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

He seems to have had great confidence in the 
opinion of his physicians. I am glad, however, 
that he made up his mind at the last to some 
definite course of action, and acted under proper 
medical advice. And now that we have finally got 
rid of this Mr. Bunbury, may I ask, Mr. Worthing, 
who is that young person whose hand my nephew 
Algernon is now holding in what seems to me a 
peculiarly unnecessary manner ? 

JACK 

That lady is Miss Cecily Cardew, my ward. 
[Lady Brachiell bows coldly to Cecily^ 

ALGERNON 

I am engaged to be married to Cecily, Aunt 
Augusta. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I beg your pardon ? -^ * ' 

129 S 



CECILY 

Mr. Moncrieff and I are engaged to be married, 
Lady Bracknell. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[ With a shiver, crossing to the sofa and sitting 
down.'] I do not know whether there is anything 
peculiarly exciting in the air of this particular part 
of Hertfordshire, but the number of engagements 
that go on seems to me considerably above the 
proper average that statistics have laid down for 
our guidance. I think some preliminary enquiry 
on my part would not be out of place. Mr. 
Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected with 
any of the larger railway stations in London ? I 
merely desire information. Until yesterday I had 
no idea that there were any families or persons 
whose origin was a Terminus. \_Jack looks perfectly 
furious, but restrains himself^ 

JACK 

[/« a clear, cold voice.'] Miss Cardew is the grand- 
daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Cardew of 149, 
Belgrave Square, S.W. ; Gervase Park, Dorking, 
Surrey ; and the Sporran, Fifeshire, N.B. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

That sounds not unsatisfactory. Three addresses 
always inspire confidence, even in tradesmen. But 
what proof have I of their authenticity ? 

130 



JACK 

I have carefully preserved the Court Guides of 
the period. They are open to your inspection, 
Lady Bracknell. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Gnm/y.] I have known strange errors in that 
publication. 

JACK 

Miss Cardew's family solicitors are Messrs. 
Markby, Markby, and Markby. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Markby, Markby, and Markby ? A firm of the 
very highest position in their profession. Indeed 
I am told that one of the Mr. Markbys is occasion- 
ally to be seen at dinner parties. So far I am 
satisfied. 

JACK 

[Very irritablyi] How extremely kind of you, 
Lady Bracknell ! I have also in my possession, you 
will be pleased to hear, certificates of Miss Cardew's 
birth, baptism, whooping cough, registration, vacci- 
nation, confirmation, and the measles ; both the 
German and the English variety. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Ah ! A life crowded with incident, I see ; though 
131 



perhaps somewhat too exciting for a young girl. I 
am not myself in favour of premature experiences. 
[Rises, looks at her watch.'] Gwendolen ! the time 
approaches for our departure. We have not a 
moment to lose. As a matter of form, Mr. 
Worthing, I had better ask you if Miss Cardew 
has any little fortune ? 

JACK 

Oh ! about a hundred and thirty thousand 
pounds in the Funds. That is all. Good-bye, Lady 
Bracknell. So pleased to have seen you. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Sitting down again.] A moment, Mr. Worthing. 
A hundred and thirty thousand pounds ! And in 
the Funds ! Miss Cardew seems to me a most 
attractive young lady, now that I look at her. Few 
girls of the present day have any really solid 
qualities, any of the qualities that last, and improve 
with time. We live, I regret to say, in an age of 
surfaces. [To Cecily.] Come over here, dear. [Cecily 
goes across.] Pretty child ! your dress is sadly simple, 
and your hair seems almost as Nature might have 
left it. But we can soon alter all that. A thoroughly 
experienced French maid produces a really marvel- 
lous result in a very brief space of time. I remember 
recommending one to young Lady Lancing, and 
after three months her own husband did not know 
her. 

JACK 

[Aside.] And after six months nobody knew her 
132 



LADY BRACKNELL 

[ Glares at Jack for a few moments. Then bends, with 
a practised smile, to Cecily^ Kindly turn round, sweet 
child. \Cecily turns completely round.'] No, the side 
view is what I want. {^Cecily presents her profile.'] 
Yes, quite as I expected. There are distinct social 
possibilities in your profile. The two weak points 
in our age are its want of principle and its want of 
profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely 
depends on the way the chin is worn. They are 
worn very high, just at present. Algernon ! 

ALGERNON 

Yes, Aunt Augusta ! 

LADY BRACKNELL 

There are distinct social possibilities in Miss 
Cardew's profile. 

ALGERNON 

Cecily is the sweetest, dearest, prettiest girl in 
the whole world. And I don't care twopence about 
social possibilities. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. 
Only people who can't get into it do that. [TV? 
Cecily.] Dear child, of course you know that 
Algernon has nothing but his debts to depend 
upon. But I do not approve of mercenary mar- 
133 



riages. When I married Lord Bracknell I had no 
fortune of any kind. But I never dreamed for a 
moment of allowing that to stand in my way. Well, 
I suppose I must give my consent. 

ALGERNON 

Thank you, Aunt Augusta. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Cecily, you may kiss me ! 

CECILY 

[Kisses her.] Thank you, Lady Bracknell. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

You may also address me as Aunt Augusta for 
the future. 

CECILY 

Thank you. Aunt Augusta. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

The marriage, I think, had better take place 
quite soon, 

ALGERNON 

Thank you. Aunt Augusta. 
134 



CECILY 

Thank you, Aunt Augusta. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long 
engagements. They give people the opportunity 
of finding out each other's character before mar- 
riage, which I think is never advisable. 

JACK 

I beg your pardon for interrupting you, Lady 
Bracknell, but this engagement is quite out of the 
question. I am Miss Cardew's guardian, and she 
cannot marry without my consent until she comes 
of age. That consent I absolutely decline to give. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Upon what grounds may I ask? Algernon is 
an extremely, I may almost say an ostentatiously, 
eligible young man. He has nothing, but he looks 
everything. What more can one desire ? 

JACK 

It pains me very much to have to speak frankly 
to you. Lady Bracknell, about your nephew, but 
the fact is that I do not approve at all of his moral 
character. I suspect him of being untruthful. 
[A/j^ernon and Cecily look at him in indignant 
amazement.'] 

135 



LADY BRACKNELL 

Untruthful ! My nephew Algernon ? Impos- 
sible ! He is an Oxonian. 

JACK 

I fear there can be no possible doubt about the 
matter. This afternoon, during my temporary 
absence in London on an important question of 
romance, he obtained admission to my house by 
means of the false pretence of being my brother. 
Under an assumed name he drank, I've just been 
informed by my butler, an entire pint bottle of my 
Perrier-Jouet, Brut, '89 ; a wine I was specially 
reserving for myself. Continuing his disgraceful 
deception, he succeeded in the course of the after- 
noon in alienating the affections of my only ward. 
He subsequently stayed to tea, and devoured every 
single muffin. And what makes his conduct all 
the more heartless is, that he was perfectly well 
aware from the first that I have no brother, that I 
never had a brother, and that I don't intend to 
have a brother, not even of any kind. I distinctly 
told him so myself yesterday afternoon. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Ahem ! Mr. Worthing, after careful considera- 
tion I have decided entirely to overlook my nephew's 
conduct to you. 

JACK 

That is very generous of you, Lady Bracknell. 
136 



My own decision, however, is unalterable. I decline 
to give my consent. 



LADY BRACKNELL 



[To Cecily.'] Come here, sweet child. [Cecily 
goes over.] How old are you, dear ? 



CECILY 



Well, I am really only eighteen, but I always 
admit to twenty when I go to evening parties. 



LADY BRACKNELL 

You are perfectly right in making some slight 
alteration. Indeed, no woman should ever be quite 
accurate about her age. It looks so calculating. 
. . . [In a meditative manner.'] Eighteen, but 
admitting to twenty at evening parties. Well, it 
will not be very long before you are of age and 
free from the restraints of tutelage. So I don't 
think your guardian's consent is, after all, a matter 
of any importance. 

JACK 

Pray excuse me. Lady Bracknell, for interrupting 
you again, but it is only fair to tell you that accord- 
ing to the terms of her grandfather's will Miss 
Cardew does not come legally of age till she is 
thirty-five. 

137 T 



LADY BRACKNELL 

That does not seem to me to be a grave objec- 
tion. Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London 
society is full of women of the very highest birth 
who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty- 
five for years. Lady Dumbleton is an instance in 
point. To my own knowledge she has been thirty- 
five ever since she arrived at the age of forty, which 
was many years ago now. I see no reason why 
our dear Cecily should not be even still more 
attractive at the age you mention than she is at 
present. There will be a large accumulation of 
property. 

CECILY 

Algy, could you wait for me till I was thirty- 
five? 

ALGERNON 

Of course I could, Cecily. You know I could. 

CECILY 

Yes, I felt it instinctively, but I couldn't wait all 
that time. I hate waiting even five minutes for 
anybody. It always makes me rather cross. I am 
not punctual myself, I know, but I do like punctu- 
ality in others, and waiting, even to be married, is 
quite out of the question. 

ALGERNON 

Then what is to be done, Cecily ? 
138 



CECILY 

I don't know, Mr. Moncrieff. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

My dear Mr. Worthing, as Miss Cardew states 
positively that she cannot wait till she is thirty-five 
— a remark which I am bound to say seems to me 
to show a somewhat impatient nature — I would 
beg of you to reconsider your decision. 

JACK 

But my dear Lady Bracknell, the matter is 
entirely in your own hands. The moment you 
consent to my marriage with Gwendolen, I will 
most gladly allow your nephew to form an alliance 
with my ward. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Rising- and drawing herself upi\ You must be 
quite aware that what you propose is out of the 
question. 

JACK 

Then a passionate celibacy is all that any of us 
can look forward to. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

That is not the destiny I propose for Gwendolen. 
Algernon, of course, can choose for himself. [Pulls 
out her watch.'] Come, dear ; [Gwendolen rises'] we 
have already missed five, if not six, trains. To 

139 



miss any more might expose us to comment on the 
platform. 

[Enter Dr. Chasuble.l 
CHASUBLE 

Everything is quite ready for the christenings. 
LADY BRACKNELL 

The christenings, -sir ! Is not that somewhat 
premature ? 

CHASUBLE 

[Looking rather puzzled, and pointing to Jack and 
Algernon.'] Both these gentlemen have expressed 
a desire for immediate baptism. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

At their age ? The idea is grotesque and irreli- 
gious! Algernon, I forbid you to be baptised. I will 
not hear of such excesses. Lord Bracknell would 
be highly displeased if he learned that that was the 
way in which you wasted your time and money. 

CHASUBLE 

Am I to understand then that there are to be no 
christenings at all this afternoon ? 

JACK 

I don't think that, as things are now, it would 
be of much practical value to either of us. Dr. 
Chasuble. 

140 



CHASUBLE 

I am grieved to hear such sentiments from you, 
Mr. Worthing. They savour of the heretical views 
of the Anabaptists, views that I have completely 
refuted in four of my unpublished sermons. How- 
ever, as your present mood seems to beone peculiarly 
secular, I will return to the church at once. In- 
deed, I have just been informed by the pew-opener 
that for the last hour and a half Miss Prism has 
been waiting for me in the vestry. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Starim^:] Miss Prism ! Did I hear you men- 
tion a Miss Prism ? 

CHASUBLE 

Yes, Lady Bracknell. I am on my way to join 
her. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Pray allow me to detain you for a moment. 
This matter may prove to be one of vital import- 
ance to Lord Bracknell and myself. Is this Miss 
Prism a female of repellent aspect, remotely con- 
nected with education ? 

CHASUBLE 

[Somewhat indigfiantly.'] She is the most culti- 
vated of ladies, and the very picture of respect- 
ability. 

141 



LADY BRACKNELL 

It is obviously the same person. May I ask 
what position she holds in your household ? 

CHASUBLE 

[Severe/y.] I am a celibate, madam. 

JACK 

[Interposing-.] Miss Prism, Lady Bracknell, has 
been for the last three years Miss Cardew's esteemed 
governess and valued companion. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

In spite of what I hear of her, I must see her at 
once. Let her be sent for. 

CHASUBLE 

[Looking off^ She approaches ; she is nigh. 

[Enter Miss Prism hurriedly?^ 

MISS PRISM 

I was told you expected me in the vestry, dear 
Canon. I have been waiting for you there for an 
hour and three quarters. [Catches sight of Lady 
Bracknell who has fixed her with a stony glare. Miss 
Prism grows pale and quails. She looks anxiously 
round as if desirous to escape.] 

142 



LADY BRACKNELL 

[/« a severe, judicial voice.] Prism ! [Miss 
Prism bows her head in shame?^ Come here, Prism ! 
[Miss Prism approaches in a humble manner^ Prism ! 
Where is that baby? [General consternation, Tfie 
Canon starts back in horror. Algernon and Jack 
pretend to be anxious to shield Cecily and Gwendolen 
from /tearing the details of a terrible public scandal.] 
Twenty eight years ago, Prism, you left Lord 
Bracknell 's house, Number 104, Upper Grosvenor 
Street, in charge of a perambulator that contained 
a baby, of the male sex. You never returned. A 
few weeks later, through the elaborate investigations 
of the Metropolitan police, the perambulator was 
discovered at midnight, standing by itself in a 
remote corner of Bayswater. It contained the 
manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than 
usually revolting sentimentality. [Miss Prism 
starts in involuntary indignation^ But the baby 
was not there ! [Everyone looks at Miss Prism.] 
Prism ! Where is that baby ? [A pause.] 

MISS PRISM 

Lady Bracknell, I admit with shame that I do 
not know. I only wish I did. The plain facts of 
the case are these. On the morning of the day you 
mention, a day that is for ever branded on my 
memory, I prepared as usual to take the baby out 
in its perambulator. I had also with me a some- 
what old, but capacious hand-bag in which I had 
intended to place the manuscript of a work of fiction 
that I had written during my few unoccupied hours. 

143 



In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I 
never can forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript 
in the bassinette, and placed the baby in the hand- 
bag. 

JACK 

[ IVko has been listening attentively. '\ But where 
did you deposit the hand-bag ? 

MISS PRISM 

Do not ask me, Mr. Worthing. 

JACK 

Miss Prism, this is a matter of no small importance 
to me. I insist on knowing where you deposited 
the hand-bag that contained that infant. 

MISS PRISM 

I left it in the cloak room of one of the larger 
railway stations in London. 

JACK 

What railway station ? 

MISS PRISM 

[Quite crushed.'] Victoria. The Brighton line. 
[Sinks into a chair.] 

JACK 

I must retire to my room for a moment. 
Gwendolen, wait here for me. 

144 



GWENDOLEN 

If you are not too long, I will wait here for you 
all my life. 

[Exit Jack in great excitement.'] 
CHASUBLE 

What do you think this means, Lady Bracknell ? 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I dare not even suspect, Dr. Chasuble, I need 
hardly tell you that in families of high position 
strange coincidences are not supposed to occur. 
They are hardly considered the thing. 

\^Noises heard overhead as if someone was throwing 
trunks about. Everyone looks up.] 

CECILY 

Uncle Jack seems strangely agitated. 

CHASUBLE 

Your guardian has a very emotional nature. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

This noise is extremely unpleasant. It sounds 
as if he was having an argument. I dislike argu- 
ments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and 
often convincing. 

145 U 



CHASUBLE 

\Looking up.'] It has stopped now. [The noise 
is redoubled.'] 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I wish he would arrive at some conclusion. 
GWENDOLEN 

This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last. 

\Enter Jack with a hand-bag of black leather in his 
hand.] 

JACK 

\Rushing over to Miss Prism.] Is this the hand- 
bag, Miss Prism ? Examine it carefully before you 
speak. The happiness of more than one life depends 
on your answer. 

MISS PRISM 

{Calmly J It seems to be mine. Yes, here is the 
injury it received through the upsetting of a Gower 
Street omnibus in younger and happier days. Here 
is the stain on the lining caused by the explosion 
of a temperance beverage, an incident that occurred 
at Leamington. And here, on the lock, are my 
initials. I had forgotten that in an extravagant 
mood I had had them placed there. The bag is 
undoubtedly mine. I am delighted to have it so 
unexpectedly restored to me. It has been a great 
inconvenience being without it all these years. 

146 



JACK 

\_In apathetic voice.'] Miss Prism, more is restored 
to you than this hand-bag. I was the baby you 
placed in it. 

MISS PRISM 

[Amazed.] You? 

JACK 

[Embracing her.] Yes . . . mother ! 

MISS PRISM 

[Recoiling in indignant astonishment^ Mr. 
Worthing ! I am unmarried ! 

JACK 

Unmarried ! I do not deny that is a serious blow. 
But after all, who has the right to cast a stone 
against one who has suffered ? Cannot repentance 
wipe out an act of folly ? Why should there be one 
law for men, and another for women ? Mother, I 
forgive you. [ Tries to embrace her again.] 

MISS PRISM 

[Still more indignant.] Mr. Worthing, there is 
some error. [Pointing to Lady Bracknell?^ There 
is the lady who can tell you who you really are. 

JACK 

[After a pause.] Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem 
147 



inquisitive, but would you kindly inform me who I 
am? 

LADY BRACKNELL 

I am afraid that the news I have to give you 
will not altogether please you. You are the son of 
my poor sister, Mrs. Moncrieff, and consequently 
Algernon's elder brother. 

JACK 

Algy's elder brother ! Then I have a brother 
after all. I knew I had a brother ! I always said 
I had a brother ! Cecily, — how could you have ever 
doubted that I had a brother. [Seizes hold of 
Algernon^ Dr. Chasuble, my unfortunate brother. 
Miss Prism, my unfortunate brother. Gwendolen, 
my unfortunate brother. Algy, you young scoun- 
drel, you will have to treat me with more respect 
in the future. You have never behaved to me like a 
brother in all your life. 

ALGERNON 

Well, not till to-day, old boy, I admit. I did 
my best, however, though I was out of practice. 
[Shakes hands ^ 

GWENDOLEN 

\To Jack.'] My own ! But what own are you? 
What is your Christian name, now that you have 
become someone else ? 

148 



^ 



JACK 

Good heavens ! . . . I had quite forgotten that 
point. Your decision on the subject of my name 
is irrevocable, I suppose ? 

GWENDOLEN 

I never change, except in my affections. 
CECILY 

What a noble nature you have, Gwendolen ! 
JACK 

Then the question had better be cleared up at 
once. Aunt Augusta, a moment. At the time 
when Miss Prism left me in the hand-bag, had I 
been christened already? 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Every luxury that money could buy, including 
christening, had been lavished on you by your fond 
and doting parents. 

JACK 

Then I was christened ! That is settled. Now, 
what name was I given ? Let me know the worst. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Being the eldest son you were naturally chris- 
tened after your father. 

149 



JACK 

[Irritably.'] Yes, but what was my father's 
Christian name ? 

LADY BRACKNELL 

[Meditatively.'] I cannot at the present moment 
recall what the General's Christian name was. But 
I have no doubt he had one. He was eccentric, I 
admit. But only in later years. And that was the 
result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indi- 
gestion, and other things of that kind. 

JACK 

Algy ! Can't you recollect what our father's 
Christian name was ? 

ALGERNON 

My dear boy, we were never even on speaking 
terms. He died before I was a year old. 

JACK 

His name would appear in the Army Lists of the 
period, I suppose, Aunt Augusta? 

LADY BRACKNELL 

The General was essentially a man of peace, 
except in his domestic life. But I have no doubt 
his name would appear in any military directory. 

JACK 

The Army Lists of the last forty years are here. 
150 



These delightful records should have been my 
constant study. {^Rushes to bookcase and tears the 
books out.] M. Generals .... Mallam, Maxbohm, 
Magley, what ghastly names they have— Markby, 
Migsby, Mobbs, Moncrieff! Lieutenant 1840, Cap- 
tain, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, General 1869, 
Christian names, Ernest John. [Puts book very 
quietly down and speaks quite calmly^ I always 
told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn't 
I ? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it naturally 
is Ernest. 

LADY BRACKNELL 

Yes, I remember now that the General was called 
Ernest. I knew I had some particular reason for 
disliking the name. 

GWENDOLEN 

Ernest ! My own Ernest ! I felt from the first 
that you could have no other name ! 

JACK 

Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find 
out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking 
nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me ? 

GWENDOLEN 

I can. For I feel that you are sure to change. 

JACK 

My own one ! 

151 



CHASUBLE 

[To Miss Prism.'] Laetitia ! [Embraces her.] 
MISS PRISM 

[Enthusiastically i\ Frederick ! At last ! 
ALGERNON 

Cecily ! [Embraces her.] At last ! 
JACK 

Gwendolen ! [Embraces her.] At last ! 

LADY BRACKNELL 

My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of 
triviality. 

JACK 

On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I've now realized 
for the first time in my life the vital Importance of 
Being Earnest. 

Tableau. 
Curtain. 



CHISWICK press: — CHARLES WHITTINGHAM and CO TOOKS COURT, 
CHANCERY LANK, LONDON.